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4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 21 June 2012
I first entered `The Cemetery of Forgotten Books' in 2003 and `The Shadow of the Wind' instantly became one of my favourite novels of all time. 'Then came the darkness of `The Angel's Game' set in the 1920's which introduced the character of David Martin as well as providing a backstory for Sempere and Sons bookshop. `The Prisoner of Heaven' is the third instalment in what has been called a cycle rather than a series and can be read in any order (according to a note at the front of this volume). It begins shortly before Christmas in 1957 and through characters and narrative threads it links the first 2 novels with Fermin taking centre stage.

A stranger enters the bookshop while Daniel is alone and buys a rare edition of `The Count of Monte Cristo' which he inscribes and leaves with a confused Daniel to deliver. Who is this man and how does he know Fermin? Fermin reveals his long and complex history to Daniel, a history which includes David Martin. `The Count of Monte Cristo' plays a central role in this novel in the same way that `Great Expectations' was central to the events of `The Angel's Game'. I read `The Prisoner of Heaven' in one sitting and on finishing it I immediately turned back to `The Angel's Game' which I am reading differently now that I know more of David Martin's history.

This is not another `Shadow of the Wind' but it is an atmospheric and beautifully written novel full of mystery and intrigue and peopled by characters who have become old friends. It adds to the Gothic world that Zafon has created, a world where books are important and powerful and where every book deserves to be saved. His books also explore the very nature of writing, the struggles and obstacles that have to be overcome. Also, as a bookseller I particularly enjoy the descriptions of Sempere and Sons, the kind of bookshop that is unfortunately becoming harder to find. Zafon's love of language and books shines through in `The Cemetery of Forgotten Books' cycle and anyone who loves books should read them.

There is a cinematic quality to the writing and many people wonder why they haven't been made into films, quite simply it is because Zafon does not want this to happen, and basically saying that some books should stay as books , I have no argument with that.

As with any translated novel the choice of translator can make or break, Zafon has found his perfect match with Lucia Graves, I could quite easily believe that they had all been written in English.

Since posting this review I watched a 'Meet the Author' interview with Zafon on the BBC News Channel. He is currently working on the 4th instalment of the cycle and it is to be a Gothic, operatic finale, sounds good to me.

Fans of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle may be interested to know that if you go to Zafon's website you can download music that he has composed and performs as a 'soundtrack' to 'Shadow of the Wind' and 'Angel's Game', some people can be too talented!
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on 31 July 2012
I write here as a lover, not a hater, of the author.

But in this instance I feel underwhelmed and disappointed. Perhaps I built this book into something that it wasn't supposed to be, I loved Shadow of the Wind and enjoyed The Angels Game. The former is a standout, stand alone book, I went to Barcelona after reading it and looked at every door imagining the Cemetery of Forgotten Books...

Anyway, if you have not read Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game do not buy this book (yet). It's simply not possible to read this book on its own, with many plots and characters backwardly made...

Overall, this is a book dedicated to Fermin giving more detail to his colourful past, which is again well written and shows great depth of description (you can smell Montjuic Castle in its rotten past and Fermin is a great character). But, without introducing any spoilers, I found too many subplots opened and new characters introduced which were then just left by the side. Perhaps to feature in the next book, but I wanted more now; overall I feel I have read half a book...

When I expected more tension and completeness I found an ending. Of the plot that did start and ended in the book, the flow felt a little rushed and sequences of plot a little too easy to find/solve (the art of discovery throughout a little too easy for me). Questions I wanted answering though didn't, for example where did the 1000 pesata note come from (not a spoiler)?? It almost feels that the last of the quadology (or whatever four book sequences are called) was in the Authors mind writing this and he wanted this story to be over as quickly as possible. For me this book needed more depth more story, and not a Hollywood type ending of what happens next...

My last comment being Shadow of the Wind is my favourite book, read that and read this...but perhaps wait for the 4th book to be released.
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on 4 July 2012
I have read all of Zafon's translated works and he is one of my favourite authors. I waited a long time in anticipation for `Prisoner' to be released and managed to bag a copy the day before my holiday. Surrounded by sand, sea, bucket and spade, I was disappointed to discover that, despite a summer publication date, the story was set at Christmas time; however, it didn't take long to overlook the fairy lights and nativity scenes and become gripped by the story. At times, the book was utterly un-put-down-able.

I'm still feeling confused by how absorbing the novel was since the plot lacks the complexity of `Shadow' and `Angel's Game' and feels considerably narrower, largely focusing on Daniel's friend and book shop colleague Fermin. There's less mystery too and the twists and turns aren't nearly as impressive as its predecessors'. And yet, I still found it hard to put the book down. Zafon is a master at pace and cliff-hangers and casts atmospheric webs that keep you trapped inside the novel long after you've finished reading. One senses he could write the story of the three little pigs and still make it gripping.

The characters are Zafon's customary larger-than-life heroes and villains and are beautifully drawn. Valls, the director of the prison where most of the story is set, is a wonderfully wicked, and often a-typical, bad guy. The prison itself is also beautifully drawn and Lucia Graves' translation ensures we are chilled by its brooding presence at the dark deeds that go on within its walls.

For me, the draw of Zafon's cycle of novels is the unashamed indulgence in dusty old books, mysterious messages, creepy buildings and shadowy figures. `Prisoner' is more restrained with these themes, but their presence is still strong enough to prevent disappointment among fans. Moreover, Zafon's sense of adventure and apparent love of books is as palpable as ever.

A note for those new to Zafon: the book is probably best considered a spin-off tale rather than a fully-rounded novel. Unlike the other two parts of the cycle, `Prisoner' doesn't work hard enough at being a stand-alone piece as well. The author suggests in a note on the text that the three books can be read in any order because they all lead back to the same centre; however, I would personally recommend that new readers read at least `The Shadow of the Wind' first.
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on 26 August 2012
Shadow of the wind is my favourite book of all time and I must admit to being a little disappointed by the sequel. However, Prisoner of Heaven is absolutely gripping from the start and is left wide open at the end for the next one too(yippee)

I always know a book has got me when I'm so far in that I shed a tear at the end and feel deflated that the book has ended; this is that novel.

Start with shadow of the wind but make sure you read this one. It is brilliant; you won't be disappointed.
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on 30 July 2012
A good read, as far as it went, but quite definitely a mere shadow of "Shadow of the Wind". It is almost as if the author became bored with his tale just after half-way through, and finished it at full speed. There were so many unanswered questions, for example, why did the "villain" instruct one of his employees to make contact with Daniel's wife? What happened to Martin, and who was the mysterious "Boss"?
All in all very disappointing-I couldn't believe that I had come to the end of the story when I did!
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on 22 June 2012
The mysterious tang of these three books is lyrical and supernatural. It has the touch of great storytelling and elements of the magic realism that also work impressively in The Passion (Contemporary classics). It's an impressive saga and the type of novel that appears all too rarely.

The most impressive quality of this, and the one that lingers most with me, is the author's profound love and admiration of the written word. This isn't just apparent in his writing but in the love of the culture around literature, the bookshops that are the physical representation of many people's love affair with the written word. This is a magical subject and here the mystique and power of that shines through with brilliance.

After the recent trends of the last five years in books - Twilight, the Da Vinci Code, Stieg Larsson etc - it is wonderful to see and author with a deft and powerful touch rise to such prominence and success. I have no idea if the books are better in the original Spanish, but the translator must have done an excellent job because this particular volume is a delight to read.

As part of an odd commitment I made to myself, I'm also going to recommend that you read the bizarre but outstandingly funny and inventive Sherlock Holmes and the Flying Zombie Death Monkeys. It's completely different to this, but the author is clearly in love with language and has presented his bizarre ideas with the most wonderfully updated facsimile of Conan Doyle's style. An unusually original and successful book.
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on 5 August 2012
This third novel in 'the cemetery of forgotten books' series swept me along. Zafon's skill in telling a compelling story with ease and fluency captivated me and kept me hooked throughout.

There was a simplicity to the construction of this book which made the story far easier to follow than the convoluted labyrinth of smoking mirrors that was 'The Angels Game'.

It is obvious that the story is incomplete at the end and there are many more twists and turns ahead in the lives of Daniel Sempere and the wonderful creation that is Fermin Rodrigo Del Torres.
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on 26 August 2015
The third in this wonderful series of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books - Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s mesmerising saga of the mostly turbulent lives of Daniel Sempere, Fermin Romero de Torres, David Martin and Isabella (along with many others.) These are the characters that we have come to know and love from the first two books, and who leap from the pages of the book like real life friends.

This is primarily Fermin’s story, most of it relating his time in prison where he befriended fellow prisoner David Martin (The Angel’s Game.) Of course the enchanting city of Barcelona is equally brought to life (although not as much in this book as in the first two). It is a measure of the author’s skill when he makes you want to visit the city and walk the streets that his characters walked in his stories.

This book is shorter than the first two and weaves together the otherwise independent stories from The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game - both of which I absolutely loved. It also introduces us to a new mystery and sets the scene for the fourth and final book in the series which Carlos Ruiz Zafon promises to be “a grand operatic finale.”

The prologue says you can read each story as a stand alone tale. That maybe true of the first two books, but I would advise you to first read the previous two stories to fully appreciate this one.

And so who is still alive? What is real and what is not real? And will Zafon pull together the enormous and complicated thread of this mega mystery and reach a satisfactory conclusion? I hope so. I’m looking forward to it but at the same time I’ll be sad when it is all finished….. I’ll just have to re-read the entire series all over again. Actually I could do this until doomsday…...
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on 13 March 2015
A really good read from an incredible author. If you've never read a novel by Zafon, I recomment you start with 'Shadow of the wind' it sets the scene for the three book concerning the 'Cemetery of forgotten books'. Each of the three is a stand alone novel, but all have recurring threads which draw you back to 'shared' characters' . I have read all of his other books (including the ones for young adults) and they are all beautifully written, well crafted stories that will grip the reader and mean you'll read well past your bedtime.
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on 8 October 2013
I loved 'The Shadow of the Wind', and I thought 'The Angel's Game' was even better. But this is very disappointing. It goes nowhere. It starts with the appearance of a strange and sinister figure, then goes into a long backstory from the grim early days of the Franco regime. When the sinister figure re-appears he is revealed as sad and irrelevant, and quickly departs the story. In the backstory a new figure appears as chief villain, but he never really emerges as anything more than a nasty but unremarkable Francoist functionary. Nothing much really happens. Nothing much is changed or resolved. There are hints and suggestions of dark things to come, but it is all really a matter of 'come back for the next thrilling episode' (and bring your money). I very much doubt that I will.
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