27 June 2013

The Prisoner of Heaven - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

We devoured the twisting, dark tales of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, and now we can finally see them both linked expertly in this companion book The Prisoner of Heaven.

Following the events of The Shadow of the Wind, we find ourselves back at the Sempere and Sons bookshop in Barcelona, where everyone is worried about Fermin, who we met in the last book. He is supposed to be getting married and should be ecstatic, but instead he has slipped into a deep melancholy. When Daniel finally makes him open up about it, he gets a lot more information than he bargains for. Fermin reveals the harsh realities of his life before he met Daniel, and also that he knows far more about the Semperes than he lets on.

The book is in a first person narrative, that of Daniel Sempere, but where it switched to the past (Fermins flashbacks) it becomes a third person narrative. This is quite effective as you can tell whether you are in the past or the present without reading the year in the chapter title (something which many of us choose to entirely ignore when we are wrapped up in a good book). Instead, you simply look for the 'I' for the present.

The Prisoner of Heaven is a quick read; much shorter and easier to read than its predecessors. The writing style tends to flow more and the information in the book is quite easily absorbed. Zafon has clearly got used to writing for his YA stories, but here we see that style being taken into an adult book and being adapted.

A couple of points which may cause issues; the book ends fairly quickly, with the climax amounting to a scuffle and major decisions made. But the real issue is that the book ends clearly on a 'this is not over' type note; there is clear intent for a continuation on the storyline. The other point is that although there is a huge amount of back-story and the initial chapter or two shoves you right into the mystery, nothing much actually happen in the present tense. There are a few worries, niggling problems and weddings to attend to, but the real story lies in Fermin's past. It makes you wonder whether the book wouldn't have been better written in Fermin's viewpoint as it was all happening.

All in all, though, it was a good read. You must, must, read The Shadow of the Wind before this one, however with The Angel's Game, you can read it at any point. For added interest when it comes to reading the book, I would read it last. This book is rather more like something designed to pave the way for a new story, rather than a story in itself, but it is still worth the read regardless. Good writing, as always, lovely descriptions, very enjoyable but was a little bit of an anti-climax. An 8 out of 10.

Image from thebooksmugglers.com