Rated Reads

The Prisoner of Heaven

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Rated: High

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s first book in his “cycle” of novels set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, The Shadow of the Wind, absolutely took my breath away. I consider it a masterpiece of gothic literature. I was eager to gobble up the second book in the series, The Angel’s Game, and was just as eager for this latest addition to the set. Zafón tells readers at the beginning that each novel is intended to stand alone, and they can be read in any order. Having read them “in order” as he has written them, I beg to differ with his assessment. Those who might come to the series first reading this latest book will not be getting his best work and might not go on to read the truly great book in the series, the first one. This newest book is the shortest and lightest, not nearly as complex in story or in setting. That’s not to say it isn’t good, but it doesn’t quite compare to the previous two.

However, this book does provide some fascinating background on the character of Fermín Romero de Torres, a character who comes into the life of main character Daniel Sempere, fairly early on in The Shadow of the Wind. All Daniel and readers know is that he saw dark days during the Civil War. Now, we learn more details about exactly what atrocities he endured, and we see a connection to The Angel’s Game.

At the beginning of this book, set not very long after the end of Shadow, Daniel is married to Bea and Fermín is still working with Daniel and his father in their book shop. One day when Daniel is manning the store, a strange man comes in who leaves a foreboding message for Fermín. With this new threat of danger and bringing up the secrets of the past, Fermín decides to tell Daniel the whole story of his imprisonment and exile before he met him as a beggar in the street.

Daniel and readers are surprised to find that Fermín’s story intersects with Daniel’s, and Daniel must decide how to handle the new information.

The Prisoner of Heaven is a fine story that may very well stand on its own. But readers who appreciated the previous two novels will feel most satisfied with this book as they learn more and put pieces together that were introduced in those two books. Zafón still masterfully leads readers through the streets of a long-gone Barcelona, teeming with secrets and a shameful past. But those who expect another Shadow of the Wind may be a little disappointed. This isn’t another masterpiece, but a satisfying addendum to one.

Rated: High for language and some violence. There are seven uses of strong language and other mild and moderate language. Violence involves some mention of torture. There are also some occasional crude sexual references, but nothing detailed.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Prisoner of Heaven
  • by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: