Autumn Doughton's Reviews > The Prisoner of Heaven

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
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Jul 18, 12

It must be said that I am really disappointed while writing this review. Three days ago I was walking up the aisle at the bookstore and out of the corner of my eye I spied this cover and almost started singing showtunes right there on the spot because I was so thrilled. For whatever reason I had it in my head that the translation for this novel was not due in stores for a few more months so I was overcome by the happiness of life's little unexpected joys--finding a $20 in the pocket of a forgotten coat, rainbows, walking by a bakery when they are pulling fresh bread out of the oven, etc.
The Prisoner of Heaven is the third installment in what is intended to be a four-part series of books all based in Barcelona from about 1919 to 1960. It's so hard for me to summarize the ongoing plot of the novels because quite honestly, half the time I don't even quite understand what's going on. It's that kind of story--twisty and turning and part wretched and part wonderful. All you really need to know is that the books are beautifully written and have the feel of old-fashioned gothic novels. The main theme is the relationship man has with good and evil. There is romance, mystery, jealousy, death, war, and at the heart of it all is a wondrous and intense love of books. I thought while reading the first of the novels, Shadow of the Wind, that no one had quite understood and put into words my own love of books the way that Zafon had. He writes: “Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”
Upon reading that passage I felt an instant connection to the author. Of course I knew what he was talking about! Books have permeated all aspects of my life. I'll be driving to work and suddenly I'll be thinking of a book that I read 10 years ago and that's how I'll live my day. Admittedly, I have a terrible memory. My best friend jokes about it often. I live and I laugh and I love and then I promptly forget what seemed so important at the time. What I don't forget is the books that I buried myself into as a child and a young adult. Sure, I might forget a character name or a twist, but I remember what is important--the feelings I had. Like the way I cried at my desk in the fifth grade while reading Where the Red Fern Grows and how I decided then and there that I would never ever live without a dog in my life to love. Or the book that made me want to fall in love, or have sex, or scared the shit out of me. There are books you read and then forget and then there are books that stay with you always. Yes, I determined that Carlos Ruiz Zafon understood me and therefore I understood him and believed in his stories.
So, I picked up this third book with excitement and trepidation and looking back, maybe I had pinned too many hopes on it. I cannot say that it was not well-written or that the prose was not gorgeous. But, the story itself faltered. Whereas the first two books were almost too grand in scope, this book was flat and did not further the plot in the manner that the other books did. We learned more about Fermin and his time in prison, and we glimpsed David Martin and understood more truths about Daniel Sempere, but overall this book felt like it was missing it's second half. After turning the last page I wished that I had never started because so man of the mysteries and intriguing aspects of the first two books were not even brought up. Even worse, it did not make me want to read more. Not really. I was actually a little bit bored and that was the most disappointing part. I hate not liking books and especially ones by such gifted writers.
I had hoped that this book would further the complex story that Zafon began to weave in the first two books. Instead, it felt like a filler--like it should have been condensed down to one of those short stories that serial writers sometimes release in between two of their books just to whet the appetite and get readers off their backs for a few months. In addition to the lack of plot development, this book was missing the magical, dark feel of the earlier books and really did not delve into the questions of religion or good vs. evil that I was expecting.
I'm sure that I will read the fourth book (probably in four years ack!) when in comes out but probably with not as much gusto and definitely weakened expectations.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Ashley Thank you for summing up perfectly my feels on this book & TSOTW. I was left so disappointed & empty after finishing POH. I mean i enjoyed Fermin's story a lot, but the rest was not up to Zafon's standards at all. His other 2 in the series i thought about for days after finishing. I still think about them they embedded themselves so deeply in me. But this one has already been forgotten.

message 2: by Autumn (last edited Jul 18, 2012 07:43AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Autumn Doughton agree. I hated giving just two stars because it's still a decent book in terms of the quality of teh actual writing. But I felt like I had to compare it to the first two because really, a series is the sum of all of it's parts, and this story was completely lacking.
After reading TSOTW and Angel's Game I also spent days dwelling on the story--on the faces of good and evil, love, loss, etc. But POH did none of that for me. I'm starting to worry that this is another case of a writer coming up with the beginning of a high concept story and not really having a plan for the ending. Like LOST. I was bummed :(

Jenny Bradfield I agree! I loved The Shadow of the Wind so much, and I wanted to like The Prisoner of Heaven as much. It's like it was missing a good chunk of writing that he meant to put it, but it got misplaced or something.

Autumn Doughton Jenny wrote: "I agree! I loved The Shadow of the Wind so much, and I wanted to like The Prisoner of Heaven as much. It's like it was missing a good chunk of writing that he meant to put it, but it got misplaced ..."

And after waiting so long between books that is SUCH a disappointment.
Honestly, I'm just not sure where Zafon is going with this

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