The Prisoner of Heaven is the third book in Carlos Ruiz Zafon‘s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The series consists of four novels, namely, The Shadow of the Wind, Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven, and the Labyrinth of Sprits, which doesn’t need to be read in chronological order. The series takes place in the same “universe,” that is, Barcelona in the early to mid 1900s, with recurring characters, but each book’s plot is independent from one another and can stand on its own. Rather than a continuation of one plot, the books in the series serve to complement and enhance the unifying theme.
The Prisoner of Heaven features an adult Daniel Sempere, married, with one baby son. Daniel Sempere was first introduced as a young boy in the The Shadow of the Wind. Similar to The Shadow of the Wind, The Prisoner of Heaven is more or less two stories – the first takes place in the “present,” that is, during the late 1950s, and the second takes place 30 years earlier and centers on Daniel’s best friend and ersatz guardian angel, Fermin Romero de Torres. In the present, Fermin is about to get married to the love of his life but is plagued by his past and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, while Daniel is harboring doubts about his marriage and future.
The novel starts with an odd stranger visiting Sempere and Sons bookstore and looking for Fermin. Worried about his friend’s present condition and curious about his connection to the mysterious stranger, Daniel convinces Fermin to finally tell him about his past. Fermin’s past involves being in prison during the mid 1930s, the hardships he had to endure during the time, and the interesting (to say the least) individuals he shared the jail with, namely, David Martin, a renowned Spanish author and alleged murderer. The connections between the different characters in the prison become clear as the story unfolds, which also shed light on the events in the series as a whole. Fermin’s tale is a typical prison narrative, complete with cruel and compassionate prison guards, crazy and eccentric cellmates, and ambitious bureaucrats, which ultimately pays homage to Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
As the second-to-last novel in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven ties up several loose ends and sheds light on events from the previous novels while setting up the stage for the next book in the series, Labyrinth of Spirits, which promises to reveal (and resolve) more secrets.
Apart from The Prisoner of Heaven, the only other book in the series I have read is The Shadow of the Wind. Unfortunately, for the life of me, I can’t remember much of what happened, as I read the book quite some time ago (but apparently never reviewed on here). The Prisoner of Heaven is a short read, with a Christmas theme, which, though not exceptionally riveting on its own, should be read by anyone who is enamored by Zafon’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.
The Prisoner of Heaven (2011; Cemetery of Forgotten Books #3) – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Harper Perennial; 278 pages (paperback)
Personal rating: 2.5/5