There are books that we read and enjoy, then there are book that we read and instantly fall in love with. Enchanted from the first page and forever unable to forget them. The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is one such book for me, so it was with extreme excitement that I began reading his new novel, The Prisoner Of Heaven.
The novel opens by rejoining Zafon’s cast of eccentric and unforgettable characters. Daniel Sempere has married the love of his life Bea and is now the father of his first son Julian. His father still runs his beloved bookshop, Sempere & Son. And Fermin, against the odds, is soon to marry his fiancé.
Life seems peaceful and contented, however this is a Carlos Ruiz Zafon novel and it’s not long before he is cranking up the pace and tension of the book. When Daniel receives a strange and ominous customer at the bookshop it’s clear that the troubles of the past have not being completely banished. The eerie and sardonic customer appears requesting to buy one of the most expensive books that Sempere & Son’s stock, Daniel is reluctant to sell to this unusual and unsettling man, however the stranger produces an irrefutable amount of money. After purchasing the book and scribbling a note in its front page, the stranger leaves, without taking his purchase. Inside is written:
For Fermin Romero De Torres, who returned from among the dead and who has the key to the future.
Daniel is torn, should he tell his good friend of this strange occurrence, or should he try to solve the mystery himself? Upon closer inspection Daniel realises that Fermin’s past is even more dark and complex than he had ever imagined. From Fermin’s time imprisoned in Montjuic Castle, to his desperate attempts to restart his life. He has lived a turbulent and often tragic existence. But even more startlingly Daniel will come to realise just how intricately his own life links to Fermin’s; opening painful wounds that Daniel would rather forget and causing him to become fuelled by jealousy and the need for revenge.
From people who have read and loved Zafon’s work, to those new to his stories, readers of this book are bound to be hooked. From the magical opening to the climatic and dramatic ending, this story is intoxicating. Like a Russian Doll with many layers to discover, Zafon packs story upon story into one super story, the effect of which left me reeling with excitement.
But with all this undulated praise I have to say the book, for me, wasn’t without fault. Frustratingly the female characters of Zafon’s book seemed even more one-dimensional than in The Shadow Of The Wind. Zafon, a man of irrefutable imagination, seems incapable of presenting anymore than two types of women. There’s the good, virginal woman like Bea. And then there is the alluring, dangerous tempest who turns good men to bad acts.
I can’t deny that this element of the book didn’t annoy me, or baffle me for that matter. How could such an insightful writer lack such vision in this one area?
Maybe there is room for improvement though, I’m certain Zafon geared up this story for another follow-up book. I can’t tell you how much I hope this is the case, not only am I well and truly addicted to Zafon’s writing, he also left some tantalizing questions unanswered.
Interestingly this is now the third in a series of book, The Prisoner Of Heaven relates to The Shadow Of The Wind and The Angles Game. Zafon explains at the beginning of the book that all three books are connected, however do not need to be read in a particular order. I like this idea. First time readers of his need not be daunted by a trilogy of books but could start anywhere.
I’m yet to read The Angels Game but it’s top of my list. Has anyone else read it? And if so is it as good as his other stuff? Has anyone else read this book? Do you plan too? What is your favorite Zafon book so far? I’d love to know your thoughts.