The Prisoner of Heaven

Well, as you know, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind just might be the best novel I have ever read. And although the sequel, The Angel's Game, could never hope to live up to the lofty expectations generated by its predecessor, it was nevertheless an awesome read in its own right. Enter the third installment, The Prisoner of Heaven, and I must admit I have seldom been so excited to read a book!

But could Carlos Ruiz Zafón's latest live up to such expectations? Though I felt it was way too short, The Prisoner of Heaven should satisfy all those who enjoyed its predecessors!

Here's the blurb:

The internationally acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Carlos Ruiz Zafon takes us into a dark, gothic Barcelona and creates a rich, labyrinthine tale of love, literature, passion, and revenge in which the heroes of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game must contend with a nemesis that threatens to destroy them.

Barcelona, 1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife, Bea, have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermin Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city's dark past. His appearance plunges Fermin and Daniel into a dangerous adventure that will take them back to the 1940s and the early days of Franco's dictatorship. The terrifying events of that time launch them on a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives.

Full of intrigue and emotion, The Prisoner of Heaven is a majestic novel in which the threads of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game converge under the spell of literature and bring us toward the enigma hidden at the heart of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a collection of lost treasures known only to its few initiates, and the very core of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's enchanting fictional world.

I loved the way Zafón linked The Angel's Game to The Shadow of the Wind at the end of the second book. It was done subtly and poignantly, and it was a very satisfying way to bring the story to an end. But since a few years have passed since the second installment was published, and since both novels are complex and convoluted affairs, it would have been good for The Prisoner of Heaven to include summaries of the previous books. Especially since this third volume acts as some sort of bridge between the first two installments and what will come after. The author claims that one can read the books in whatever order they choose, that each book is a self-contained tale, but I feel that one must read them in the order they were released to catch all the nuances so that you can only shake your head in wonder when you realize how various things are connected.

Once again, Zafón takes us back to Barcelona, this time in 1957. As is usually his wont, the author's evocative prose offers a wealth of insight into that period of time. As was the case in both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, he paints a vivid picture which allows the reader to be transported back in time and truly experience what Barcelona was like in the late 50s.

In the first two volumes, Zafón's narrative sucked you right into those convoluted tales of love, deceit, mystery, and betrayal from the very first page. As a sort of transition novel in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven is not as complex. To a certain extent, it is Fermin Romero de Torres' back story. But it also bridges The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, paving the way and setting the stage for what will happen next.

One would think that this could be construed as a negative point, but the characterization is once more "top notch" and the way the author tied so many plotlines from the previous installments together makes The Prisoner of Heaven a real page-turner.

Familiar faces like Daniel, his father, and Bea make a number of appearances, and Zafón also has a number of surprises in store for us. Be that as it may, as is often the case when he's in a scene, it's Fermin who steals the show for the better part of the book, be it in the flashback sequences recounting his time in prison or in "real time" as he's getting ready to become a married man.

Simultaneously funny, tragic, and moving, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's intelligence, wit, humor, and deft human touch are once again the ingredients that make The Prisoner of Heaven such a memorable read. The author sure knows how to pull on those heartstrings.

The pace is perfect, which means that you'll get through the relatively short 278 pages in no time. The downside is that we must now wait a few years to discover what's next for Daniel and Fermin and the rest of the characters.

Although The Prisoner of Heaven is nowhere near as good as The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, it remains a touching and remarkable tale that makes you beg for more. Fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafón will devour this one!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

You can read an extract from the novel here.

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

And here's the book trailer:

There is also a free short story titled "Rose of Fire" available for free on the internet.

Here's the blurb:

Set at the time of the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century, “Rose of Fire” tells the story of the origins of the mysterious labyrinthine library, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which lies at the heart of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novels The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and now The Prisoner of Heaven.

Follow this link to read the short story online.

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