Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I'm probably very unusual as readers of The Prisoner of Heaven go, since I've yet to read the first two novels in the series, The Angel's Game and The Shadow of the Wind. I think I was a little intimidated by them, perhaps because I'd heard they were confusing. The Prisoner of Heaven stands alone fine, thank goodness.

In The Prisoner of Heaven, the year is 1957. Daniel Sempere is looking forward to his friend Fermin's wedding but Fermin has lost weight and seems unusually jumpy. When a stranger shows up and buys a very expensive copy of The Count of Monte Cristo then inscribes it with a mysterious note to Fermin, Daniel is curious enough to follow him. What does the stranger want and why is Fermin not himself? The answers lie, for the most part, in Fermin's complicated past and horrific experience as a prisoner in Montjuic Castle in Barcelona.

Having missed out on the first two books, there were occasionally little hints that I needed to go back to the beginning of the series to get to know the characters, the Sempere & Sons book shop in Barcelona and their history in the previous books; however, I really did feel like the story was complete, apart from the obvious hint that there was more to resolve in a fourth book. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books played a lesser role than I expected it to, and was a bit mystifying when the characters finally arrived there.

I found The Prisoner of Heaven quite breezy and hard to put down but in some minor ways a very tiny bit unsatisfying. It's clear that the series will continue. However, it was a book that I felt immediately drawn into and I remained happily immersed in the story, throughout. Because I haven't read the first two books, I can't say how The Prisoner of Heaven fits within the series and whether or not the tone remains the same, but I enjoyed the story so much that even when some little portion was wrapped up in a disappointing way, it didn't matter. I enjoyed the experience enough that I closed the book eager to find a copy of The Angel's Game and work my way forward.

Recommended - A surprisingly light book with several mysterious strands that stands alone well but leaves enough unsaid to make at least this reader desire to begin at the beginning.

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16 comments:

  1. HUH. Having read the first one WAY before (and I still am unsure or was not aware these are 'series' but maybe related) I read the first one, I assure you that Shadow of the Wind is AWESOME.

    I don't know what else to say...

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    1. They actually use the word "cycle" as opposed to "series". I think of anything that has recurring characters as a series, though, myself. Okay, so I guess I'll give the first one a go and just skip on to Shadow if it's not floating my boat.

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  2. Hmmm. Loved Shadow but was confused as hell by Angel's Game. Breezy that one is not! I'm still undecided on whether or not to even read this one.

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    1. I think I'm starting to put a finger on why I've put off The Angel's Game. I read a few reviews, just for fun, after writing about The Prisoner of Heaven, and *everyone* says that about The Angel's Game. Wonder if it lost something in translation?

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  3. My sister adored The Shadow of the Wind and is really excited about this book.

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    1. I noticed Swapna enjoyed it but thought it was missing the magic of the previous two books. Hope your sister likes it, anyway. Since I haven't read the first two, I got to enjoy it on its own merits. That may have been a lucky choice. :)

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  4. You will absolutely LOVE SHADOW OF THE WIND. My favorite book of all times. Loved it so much I "had" to go to Barcelona to find all the places in the book.

    I didn't like THE ANGEL'S GAME as much...too sci-fi. I am hearing mixed reviews about THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN. THANKS for your review.

    LOVE your blog...new follower and e-mail subscriber.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    http://silversolara.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh, wow, you've been to Barcelona because of the book? That's amazing! I'm envious!

      I like sci-fi, so maybe I'll enjoy The Angel's Game. I haven't given up on at least giving it a try, but I'll probably ditch it if it's as confusing as everyone indicates. So glad to know you loved Shadow of the Wind, too! It seems to be a widespread favorite.

      Thanks for following my blog! I'm in the process of moving, so my posts are a little sporadic, although I'm going to try to play catch-up on reviews, today, if I can. Nice to meet you!

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  5. The Angel's Game was a favorite of mine, but be aware that it is a very dark book; the darkest of the three. It will shed a lot of light on all the players of The Prisoner of Heaven, and I would also recommend The Shadow of the Wind to you as well. They are incredible books, but Angel is my favorite by just a little bit!

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    1. Wow, really? Darker than a book about torture in a prison has got to be pretty dark. But, I am definitely curious and eager to learn more about the characters. You're the first to admit a preference to The Angel's Game! Good to know, thanks!

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  6. Interesting. I love when a book isn't all that great and yet somehow I love it. Whether it's the writing or the story or the characters that convince me.

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    1. That's a good way to describe it, Jenny! It isn't a perfect book, and yet I loved it. The characters, story and writing all played a role in keeping the pages turning.

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  7. Shadow of the Wind is one of my favourite books of all time and I don;t remember it being confusing - I remember it being awesome.

    Of course, I still haven't read Angel's Game because I am a little scared that it isn't going to live up to my really, really high expectations!

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    1. It's Angel's Game that everyone's called "confusing", I think. Everyone seems to love Shadow of the Wind! I'm excited about that. I'll start at the beginning but if I get confused and can't stand The Angel's Game, at least I know it's fine to close the book and move on. Wahoo for that!

      Maybe the fact that you've read the second book will help make the first less confusing? That's what I'm hoping The Prisoner of Heaven will do for me.

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  8. Definitely read the Shadow of the Wind first - it's an excellent book and gives a lot of background to the story. The Angel's Game is kind of its own animal, and I like it quite a bit more after having read The Prisoner of Heaven and realizing Martin's mental state (and the mystery surrounding it). Certainly there are still questions about what was really happening, but being able to get an outsider's view of Martin in The Prisoner of Heaven helped put The Angel's Game in perspective.

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    1. Oh, hmm. I may read in that order, then, although it seems kind of weird to go completely backwards! Thanks, Alyce!

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