Title: The Prisoner of Heaven
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
The year is 1957, and it’s Christmas in Barcelona. Daniel Sempere is thrilled that his old friend Fermin Romero de Torres is going to be wed. But when a mysterious stranger from Fermin’s past visits Daniel in his family’s bookstore, Fermin must come clean about secrets he’s been hiding for years.
The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game were the first two novels in Zafon’s trilogy about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and now he completes it with The Prisoner of Heaven. Indeed, readers of those two books will recognize the main characters of this one, as they were the major characters.
Unlike those first two books, though, The Prisoner of Heaven will make little sense if readers haven’t consumed the first two books in the trilogy. It very much seems to be written for fans of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, rather than new readers. If you’re rusty on what happened in the first two books, you’d do well to review them before picking up this one, as you may not understand everything that happens in it if you don’t.
While The Prisoner of Heaven is interesting and easy to read, it unfortunately lacks much of the magic that swept readers away in previous books. The language isn’t quite as lush or poetic, and the descriptions don’t reach the level of beauty that readers have come to expect from Zafon. As Zafon’s prose is a huge part of the reason I enjoy his novels so much, I found this to be disappointing.
Additionally, The Prisoner of Heaven lacks the mysterious nature of the first two books. It’s relatively straightforward, with few jaw dropping revelations or shocking twists. It also doesn’t have the sense of foreboding, that darkness which Zafon writes so well. The novel is a little lighter, but that also makes it easier to read. It’s a book you can zip through, which might delight readers who were disappointed in the heaviness and difficulty of The Angel’s Game.
If you’ve read the first two novels about The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, reading The Prisoner of Heaven is a real no-brainer. Zafon wraps up his trilogy well, so that readers won’t be left wondering about the fate of characters. But if you haven’t sampled Zafon’s work before, starting with The Shadow of the Wind is highly recommended. Now that Zafon has wrapped up this trilogy, it will be interesting to see what he does next.
EDIT: I have been told by multiple readers in the comments that the series is actually a quartet, and not a trilogy as Zafon originally planned. My opinions on the book are a bit different knowing there is more to come, but I stand by my thoughts here.
Other books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: