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Book Review: Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the third book in the Forgotten Books series. The first two books, The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game have been international best sellers.

The series chronicles the story of Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea, content with their life and their beautiful new baby Julian, and happy that their good friend Fermin Romero de Torres is about to get married. But when a stranger walks into Sempere’s book shop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret about Fermin, their happiness subsides.

Daniel and Fermin go down a path from which they might never come back, and if they do, they will never be the same. The story flashbacks from Barcelona 1957, to 1940–a terrible time in Spain’s tumultuous history–to reveal, piece by piece, more about the characters we thought we knew.

The current installment keeps the same storytelling and most of all, the same wonderful sense of humor. The Prisoner of Heaven is shorter than its predecessors, the structure, which as mentioned above still follows a past/present thread, is more clearly defined. In the previous books the thread was intermingled and took some getting used in order to follow properly.

Out of the three books, The Prisoner of Heaven is the least self-contained. I would actually recommend reading the other two first, especially The Angel’s Game, because The Prisoner of Heaven ties up a lot of loose ends which can only be understood in the reference of the back story and familiarity with the prior books.

I forgot how much I liked the fabulous character of Fermin Romero de Torres, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite literary characters. A romantic at heart, linguist in mind, and a dreamer by trade, Fermin’s outrageous and often hilarious observations leave me in envy and awe with a thirst for more.

I would be remiss not to mention another one of the author’s unsung characters: the city of Barcelona itself which is revealed, throughout the series in all her grit and glory in both sun and shade. One could not also forego Zafón’s tributes to previous masterful storytellers. From the obvious Dumas to Cervantes, Dickens to Hugo, these masters would be proud of the homage paid to them (in purpose or just in this reader’s mind–does it even matter?) in another masterful tale.

The great narrative, prose and wonderful comedic timing continue in the strong tradition of the Forgotten Books series. I read many translated books and I have to say that this series is probably the finest translated (even though I don’t read in Spanish). Usually there are things amiss in foreign books, be it the cultural references, the style, or jokes. However, translator Julia Graves hasn’t missed a beat (and if she did, I couldn’t tell), and the story flows smoothly without the reader having to stop due to misunderstandings.

Related Reads:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

  • 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062206281

Buy this book in paper or electronic (Kindle) format.

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