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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 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 22 July 2012
I think I'm in the minority in that I greatly preferred Angels Game to Shadow of The Wind, so was a little disappointed when I read that the book picks up Daniel and Fermin's story; for I didn't warm to either of their characters whilst reading Shadow of The Wind. However, I was still greatly anticipating the release of Prisoner of Heaven.

Prisoner is not a mystery thriller, but is intriguing. Without giving too much away, it tells the story of Fermin's past, which brings the plots from Shadow of the Wind and Angel's Game together; and takes the character of David Martin into Daniel's world. The events here will throw into doubt things the reader thought were already known from the previous stories. However, there are still tantalising hints that not everything is at it might seem. The conclusion leaves the way open for a sequel, and I can only hope that some of the unanswered questions will be addressed in some way then!

Zafon's style of writing is mainly what has drawn me to his work, and kept me following this series to date. There's no doubt in my mind that Zafon has substantial talent when it comes to the written word. His style not only draws the reader into the text, but conjures up visual images of the events in the mind as the text flows from page to page. In that respect, Prisoner of Heaven does not disappoint. I also feel that Zafon's style has matured a lot since Shadow of The Wind. I felt at that time the fact that Zafon had previously written young adult fiction was quite apparent. This is a drawback Prisoner doesn't suffer from I'm pleased to say.

My only real criticism of Prisoner is the length. It stands at just under 300 pages, and is presented in quite a large font. I wonder whether there was a hurry to get this book released, or did the publishers simply want the benefits that an additional release would bring? Either way, its a shame that the progression of Prisoner comes across as being cut short. There's clearly more of the story to tell, and continuing to convey it here would easily have held the readers' interest.

It's worth noting that both Shadow of The Wind and Angel's Game could be read as completely separate novels, as they have the smallest of connections. Apparently the same should be true of Prisoner of Heaven. This is partly true - it could indeed be read without reading the predecessors. However, there are references throughout here to plot points in the previous books that will make little sense to those who haven't read them. I personally wouldn't recommend this without having read Shadow of The Wind at least. I don't feel you need to have read Angel's Game.

Looking forward to the next instalment!
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on 14 October 2013
The Prisoner of Heaven is actually the third book in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle but, fortunately since I haven't read the previous two books, a note at the beginning confirms that each individual instalment in the series can be read in any order. The lack of knowledge of Ruiz Zafon's previous works certainly didn't spoil the story at all and, while there were references clearly pointing to the happenings of other books, the narrative flowed smoothly and all of the characters were established in a full and engaging manner.

The action in The Prisoner of Heaven begins in December 1957 in the Sempere & Sons Bookshop in Barcelona. Even though it's the Christmas season, business is bad (the book trade in 1957 being unfortunately rather similar to the book trade in 2012) and so Sempere Senior sets out to buy window decorations to woo the punters in, leaving his son Daniel alone to mind the shop. Daniel is not alone for long though as a sickly, hobbling old man enters the shop and, after firing some vague questions at Daniel, buys an illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo, the most expensive volume in stock. The old man is clearly not a bibliophile and his lack of interest in the book is confirmed when he inscribes the volume: "For Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future."

Fermin is in fact an employee at the bookshop and, although he is a good friend of Daniel's, he is a man with a mysterious past. After trailing the old man to see what else he can learn, Daniel presents Fermin with the book and begins to learn more about his friend's origins, experiences during the war, and about his connection to the Sempere family. It is not just the past that provides intrigue for the two men though, as both Daniel and Fermin are faced with contemporary romantic shenanigans and questions of identity and honesty.

The Prisoner of Heaven is a truly captivating book. It couldn't be described as action-packed but the story is so compelling that the book positively whizzes by. It's a story that you might well find yourself reading in a single sitting. There is a mystery at the heart of the story but it is not one that the reader must untangle since Fermin is in possession of nearly all of the puzzle pieces and is, eventually, happy to share them with Daniel. Rather, the reader quickly becomes so invested in the characters that every secret and past mystery about them is in demand and the whole host of intrigue weaves together to indicate far larger things afoot. As I mentioned before, The Prisoner of Heaven is the third book in the cycle and, while you don't have to have read the others previously, you'll certainly want to read them afterwards so you can discover in detail things that are hinted at and uncover the motivations and destinies of various characters.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon has a lovely writing style [and Lucia Graves must be praised for the excellent translation], very straightforward and naturalistic but able to convey a great deal of subtle emotion. His character building is excellent too, with Fermin being a particular favourite. I'd read Ruiz Zafon's other books just to learn more about Fermin but it would also be good to have more insight into Sempere Senior and in Bea, Daniel's wife. Both of these two do play a role in The Prisoner of Heaven but it seems like they have more going on, in the past if not in the present, than is discussed. Ruiz Zafon's good with the baddies too; the mind boggles at what Inspector Fumero gets up to in the previous books. The world of Sempere & Sons is one that could be visited again and again.
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on 28 June 2015
First came The Shadow of the Wind, which I can honestly say is one of the most surprising and wonderful books I’ve read this century. Then came The Angel’s Game, which I can honestly say is one of the books I’ve read this century. Now The Prisoner of Heaven, which falls between the two in terms of quality, though partly because it feels like only half a story – it’s sort of The Empire Strikes Back of the series, though I say that as someone who really doesn’t understand all the fuss about Star Wars. If you’re a Star Wars fan, it’s probably Attack of the Clones: getting things a bit back on track after the previous instalment buggered up everything you loved about what had come before.

Mostly this is the dark, miserable and extraordinarily convenient story of Fermin – kept in a nightmarish prison for reasons unknown and escaping with an ease that highlights just how bad Zafon’s plotting is in this volume: everything falls to convenience and contrivance so that characters can be moved into place for the concluding book. Anyway, a shadowy presence from Fermin’s past appears and so we get this long-winded and rather uninteresting story that eventually peters out and finishes with 50 pages of such drawn out, meticulously dull happenings that you just know Zafon is going to expiate it all with a staggering reveal or twist on the final page to get you slavering for Book 4.

Well, no. It just sort of ends, after a mawkish plea to inveigle its way into your good books that only kind of works because the characters are so gorgeously realised. It improves upon The Angel’s Game significantly, but falls some way short of TSotW – Fermin is impressively shackled down from raging firebrand puffed up on his own mythomania to a delicate and broken man, but too many strands are picked up and then left in mid-air, with Zafon evidently anticipating you being able to recall not only them but also the events the TAG in a few years time when the final chapter of this saga eventually sees the light of day.

Overall I’m sort of indifferent. Lucia Graves has done another achingly superb job in translating this, and the odd moment of beauty and care sparkles amid the coincidences and lazy plotting, but we’re a long way from the pinnacle Zafon evidently achieved far too early in this series. If you read and loved The Shadow of the Wind and are hoping for a return to the glories of that indescribably rich and moving tapestry then this, it’s for to say, is not the book you’re looking for. Unfortunately, though, it’s about as close as you’re likely to get.
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on 12 June 2015
The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is part of a cycle of novels known collectively as The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. At the moment there are three books (the other two being The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game) and they are all independent stories whose characters and themes overlap, meaning that they can be read in any order. Despite this I think it that you would get more out of each story if you read them in order of publication.

My experience of The Prisoner of Heaven would be different from those who have not read the previous two books. I read The Shadow of the Wind when I was quite young and, although I probably did not understand it that well, I was able to recognize and understand certain references to that particular storyline. I have also read The Angel’s Game – also a number of years ago, which I found quite terrifying – which meant I had the background knowledge of a particular character. Having said that, Zafón provides enough information for new readers to understand what is going on.

The story is written in several parts beginning in Barcelona at Christmas in 1957. The sections set during this time period are narrated by Daniel Sempere (the main character from The Shadow of the Wind) who works alongside his father in the bookshop Sempere & Sons. One day a mysterious customer buys and leaves a copy of an expensive novel for Daniel’s friend and work colleague Fermín Romero de Torres. This leads us to the middle sections, the key part of the plot in which, told in third person narrative in order to differentiate from the “current day” (1957), we discover the character Fermín’s past and who the mysterious customer was. David Martín, the main character in The Angel’s Game, makes a significant appearance in this part.

During the remaining parts, told once again from Daniel’s point of view, I kept expecting something major to happen as I did not feel that the novel had reached it’s climax. But nothing happened which was slightly disappointing (although I was also relieved as I feared I would find this book scary as I did with The Angel’s Game – I didn’t). However I do believe that the final book in this cycle will continue with and tie up the loose ends in The Prisoner of Heaven – another reason to have read the books in order in my view.

Overall I enjoyed the book. I definitely prefer it to The Angel’s Game, which I found confusing and slightly unnerving. I cannot compare it easily with The Shadow of the Wind for, as already mentioned, it has been such a long time since I read it. I would certainly recommend this book (and series) particularly to those who enjoy historical fiction and mysteries.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 July 2012
The Prisoner of Heaven is the long awaited third instalment in the Cemetery of Lost Books series. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is such a talented storyteller I think he could make the phone book unputdownable! I always approach his new books with a mixture of pleasure and dread - I'm always confident they're going to be good but I know I'll feel bereft once the final page is turned.

The story begins in 1957, a year after Daniel and Bea Sempere's wedding and they now have their hands full with a new addition to the family, baby Julian. All seems peaceful enough apart from the usual pressures of adjusting to parenthood and the need to bring more customers into Sempere and Son's Bookshop where Daniel and family now live with his father. Fermin is still working in the bookshop and will soon be married to Bernarda so what could possibly happen to taint this picture of domestic bliss? Cue the entrance of the mysterious stranger who readily spends a small fortune on a rare copy of The Count of Monte Cristo only to instruct Daniel to pass it onto Fermin. Thus, a window is opened on the murky past of Fermin Romero de Torres and we are swept back in the mists of time to 1939 when Barcelona fell to General Franco. Fermin was amongst those unfortunates imprisoned in Montjuic Castle, considered as escape-proof as the Chateau d'If in The Count of Monte Cristo. Yes, the past has a nasty habit of catching up on folk and Fermin is no exception.

If you enjoyed The Shadow of The Wind and The Angel's Game you will experience equal delight in this latest episode. The usual Zafon ingredients are present - the gothic undertones, the inner heart of Barcelona, the love of literature, the sheer joy of creating a vibrant, atmospheric story peopled with characters who feel like old friends.

The only thing preventing me awarding a five star rating (maybe I'm too greedy or too harsh..) is the fact that, at 288 pages, this novel is almost half the size of its two sister volumes (The Shadow of The Wind 528 pages, The Angel's Game 544 pages) and it feels more like part one of a two parter a la Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows movie version. I guess it prolongs the inevitable despair of finishing the series, which will happen with the next novel but it could frustrate those accustomed to the "meatiness" of the previous tomes. I'll just have to bide my time waiting on the final course, grazing on less savoury fare to satisfy my literary munchies in the interim...
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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 27 September 2012
Picking this up to read I wondered if I would be able to remember all that had gone before in the first two novels in this series. No problem, I at once enjoyed being back in the familiar territory of the Sempre bookshop and recollections of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game were easily recalled. The explanation at the front of The Prisoner of Heaven reminds us that it is part of a cycle of novels set in the literary universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books of which the previous novels were the first two instalments. It also goes on to say that although each novel is an independent story they are all interconnected by common characters and storylines. The claim is made quite correctly that for this reason the novels can be read in any order, enabling the reader to weave their own path to the heart of the narrative. I do not refute this but personally feel more comfortable with the fact that I have read them in order of publication.

The writing is just like in the previous volumes so atmospheric that you get a strong feeling of how Barcelona must have felt in the early nineteen forties and the late nineteen fifties, the two periods we are swapped between in The Prisoner of Heaven. We meet many of the same characters but in this novel the protagonist is Fermin Romero de Torres as he relates his story to Daniel Sempre in the fifties. Daniel is now married with a young son and helping his father run the family bookshop, which is struggling to survive. The appearance in the shop of a mysterious stranger who threatens to expose Fermin's secret, means that after all these years he at last has to tell Daniel the truth about his past. Daniel and Fermin find themselves embarking on a dangerous adventure teeming with lies, reprisals, resentment and suspicion as they search for the truth.

This third novel in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series I found to be a real page turner that I finished far too quickly, leaving me eagerly awaiting the next instalment due to the ending leaving us knowing there is so much more to come. I can recommend this to anyone that enjoyed the first two, although you will be surprised in that this is a much easier to follow instalment. Still I am left wondering just how the author is going to tie together all the storylines into the final novel. There is a lot left to be explained to the reader, some of which I am a little confused about but have no intention of mentioning here for fear of spoilers, we will just have to wait, hopefully not to long!
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on 19 March 2018
Prisoner of Heaven is the third enchanting story from Carlos Ruiz Zafon's, Cemetery of Forgotten Books trilogy and it continues with the same edgy atmosphere as the previous 2 books. There is always a sense of darkness and secrets with these stories and Zafon is a master of keeping the flow of suspicion and intrigue alive throughout a book.

Characters from the other books return, but this book is mainly focused on Fermín who works with Daniel in the bookshop. The story begins when an unsavoury character purchasing a special edition of the Count of Monte Cristo from Daniel, insists on buying the most expensive book in the store. Was his choice a prophetic warning of what lay ahead, especially when he added the inscription?
"For Fermín Romero de Torres, who came back from among the dead and holds the key to the future."

Fermín is a secretive person and as it transpires he spent time in a prison cell along with David Martin, of Angles Game. He shares his past insights and events with Daniel as they seek to solve this puzzle. The twists and turns will need to be discovered by the next reader but to immerse yourself in Zafron’s melodic writing is a memorable experience. His books have a habit of living with you and giving you that chill in your back. It’s not horror it’s just a stalking menace that threatens to invade when you’re not vigilant.
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