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The Prisoner of Heaven - Review

This weekend, I treated myself to something I knew would be worth the wait: I read the third installment of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's "Barcelona Quartet": The Prisoner of Heaven.

I had pre-ordered this book back in June, and although it arrived on release day I put it on a shelf, and I waited... I waited until I reached a stage in the "reading cycle" where I had lost all hope in ever finding a beautiful book. Frequent readers are probably familiar with this slump. The fact is, not all books are going to be as good as the last... and sometimes the downward spiral seems like it might never end. At that point, I suggest to each and every one of you that you keep a Zafon novel on stand by, to rescue you from these dark times.

It was in such a moment that I decided that the weekend would be THE weekend.

The Prisoner Of Heaven is a sequel to The Shadow Of The Wind and a prequel and sequel to The Angel's Game (yes I know, just go with it...) It once again sees the reader reunited with the Sempere family and their bookshop, and their quick-witted friend Fermin. Daniel Sempere is now grown - married to Bea and father to a child - and Fermin is planning his own wedding to Bernarda. However, he is in uncharacteristicly low spirits about it. When a sinsiter stranger with one hand buys the most expensive edition of The Count of Monte Cristo from the bookshop, and inscribes it with a cryptic message to Fermin, Daniel starts to investigate his friend's bitter mood. As Daniel prys the truth from Fermin, the story of the Prisoner of Heaven is revealed...

Fermin recounts to Daniel a dark part of his (previously witheld) history, and confides in him a reason as to why he feels he cannot marry Bernarda. Having spent years in Monjuic Prison under a false identity, he was certified dead after a daring stunt. "Fermin" doesn't exist to the world, but it is the man his wife is in love with.

To say anything more about the story of The Prisoner Of Heaven, would be to ruin it for those who haven't yet read it, so I will leave the synopsis there. However, without spoiling the narrative, I can tell you that there are no end of "ohhhh!" moments as plot lines from the previous two novels begin to weave together. And they do so deliciously! I would wholly recommend refreshing yourself on The Shadow of The Wind, and in particular The Angel's Game, before reading The Prisoner of Heaven. It will make those "ohhhh!" moments all the more revealing!

As with all of Zafon's novels, the writing style is beautiful, lyrical and unpretentious. The author has an eerie talent for giving you a complete roundup of a character in a single paragraph, at which point you feel like you know them completely. Valls is a prime example. I read a paragraph of no more than 6 sentences about his "Sunday sermons" and I instantly disliked him, knew his arrogance and was a little bit fearful of his power. It's an incredible art, really...

I can barely contain myself for the release of the final novel of this quartet. So many questions hang in the air at the close of Prisoner of Heaven, and I am sure there will be answers to them all at the end of the wait. However, I'm yet to finda predicted publish date for the finale, I can only hope that it is not too far away!

Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an author I always find a joy to read, and I hope that many of you will be tempted by one of his novels and dicover the same. I cannot recommend The Prisoner of Heaven enough, but I wouldn't recommend that you start here. Newbies to Zafon should grab a copy of The Shadow Of The Wind and spend a Winter weekend with nothing but the lush vision of Barcelona Zafon creates. Once you're under the spell, I'm sure I'll meet you at the end of Prisoner Of Heaven, desperate for the final part!

1 comment

  1. I am definitely tempted by his novels. So much so that when I finished The Prisoner of Heaven, I wanted more... I ended up reading all his YA novels!

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