Steven Langdon's Reviews > The Prisoner of Heaven

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
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Sep 17, 12

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Read in September, 2012

This book is the third of Zafon's remarkable novels set in the Barcelona of Franco's Spain, a city with immense character, a long history and all the complexity of a conquered territory in which the inhabitants are at underground or overt war with the authorities. This particular novel interconnects most with "The Angel's Game," since David Martin is a key character in each (though the time frame of this book is later than the period of the "Angel's Game.") All three books include the same powerful symbol, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

I found both of Zafon's previous novels to be quite exotic -- enjoyably so in "The Shadow of the Window" -- but descending into excessive melodrama in "The Angel's Game." This novel I find much more compelling because its characters are remarkable but less bizarre, and the plot is far less outlandish and subject to supernatural interventions. The result is a book in which the city of Barcelona in all its flavour and the individual characters in all their eccentricity dominate, producing a far more fascinating novel. Fermin, the central figure around whom the book focuses, is a complex man whose story of prison, dramatic escape and subsequent survival keeps this book moving forward with credibility and fascination. Daniel, the bookstore proprietor, is similarly complicated, but less self-confident than his older friend -- and his wife, Bea, is a somewhat less-developed but harder figure. Around these three, a set of interesting minor figures is also presented -- included a devastating villain by the name of Vall, who has killed Daniel's mother Isabella.

Besides providing us with an excellent novel in its own right, Zafon is also setting the stage, it seems, for his next novel. Daniel is clearly committed to achieving revenge against Vall. There is a mystery introduced here involving the empty treasure chest that has turned up. And there is a new and unexplained figure, Sofia, the daughter of Isabella's sister, injected into the story near its end. Questions are also raised about what actually happened to David Martin, whom Fermin thought had died in jail, yet seems to have escaped prison like Fermin. These elements all point to a new book coming!

One hopes that novel number four from Carlos Ruiz Zafon will emulate this fine book in its commitment to fascinating characters, but within the framework of a credible plot structure.
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