The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

In 2004 I discovered my favourite author.  As I was walking through a Christchurch bookshop (which is no longer standing) I spotted a beautiful book on the shelves with an intriguing title, The Shadow of the Wind.  As soon as I started reading it I became obsessed with the story and couldn’t get it out of my mind.  I didn’t want to do anything but read this amazing story that captivated me.  Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a Spanish author, transported me to post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, and introduced me to Daniel Sempere, Julian Carax, Fermin, and The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  Ever since The Shadow of the Wind I’ve eagerly awaited Carlos’s other novels being translated into English.  In 2009, the prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, was released and I also enjoyed this.  After much anticipation, The Prisoner of Heaven, the sequel to The Shadow of the Wind, has just been released.  I couldn’t wait to meet my favourite characters again and discover what had happened to them after the events of The Shadow of the Wind.

The Prisoner of Heaven returns to the world of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere & Sons bookshop.

It begins just before Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from The Shadow of the Wind have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel’s father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him.

Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival.

The Prisoner of Heaven was everything I was expecting and more.  I was immediately taken back to Barcelona to meet my old friends to find out how life had been treating them.   Carlos Ruiz Zafon has skillfully woven strands of the stories from The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game into The Prisoner of Heaven.  Characters that have shown up in each of those stories make an appearance in The Prisoner of Heaven and relationships between these characters are revealed.  The marvel of these three books (and what will ultimately be four books) is that they are amazing stories in their own right, but if you read each of them, you get even more out of the story because you know about key events that have happened in the other stories.  For instance, if you’ve read The Angel’s Game you’ll already know of the David Martin that is a prisoner in Montjuic Prison in The Prisoner of Heaven.

Several people have mentioned that they didn’t really enjoy The Angel’s Game because it was too confusing (I personally loved the story), but when you read The Prisoner of Heaven, pieces of the puzzle fall into place and you realise why David Martin’s story was so strange and dark.

A large part of the story concentrates on Fermin and his past.  Fermin was my favourite character in The Shadow of the Wind so I loved finding out more about him and how he came into Daniel’s life.  It is through Fermin’s tale that we learn of his connection to other key characters in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s books.

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, my favourite fictional place, makes another appearance in this book.  The way that Carlos describes the sights and smells of this wonderful place makes me so unbelievably happy and I only wish that I could visit it.  If you don’t know about The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, you must read one of Carlos’ books just to discover it for yourself.

The Prisoner of Heaven has left me dying to read Carlos’ final book featuring these characters (not yet written) and I really want to re-read The Shadow of the Wind.  If you haven’t read any of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s books I suggest you start with Shadow of the Wind.  You will fall in love with Carlos’ Barcelona, his memorable characters, and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books

Return to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books

My favourite all-time book is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind so I was really excited to read today that I’ll get to return to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books next year.  Here’s the info from Carlos’ newsletter:

“The Prisoner of Heaven returns to the world of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere & Sons bookshop. It begins one year after the close of The Shadow of the Wind when a mysterious stranger enters the shop, looking for a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo .

The Prisoner of Heaven is published in Spain today and the English language version will be out in the UK on 21/06/2012″

I haven’t got word of when it will be released in New Zealand but am assuming it will be published in Australia and NZ by Text Publishing, who have brought us Carlos’ other English language translations.  June 21, 2012 certainly can’t come around fast enough!