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Zafon’s marvelous series continues

New and familiar characters provide reading pleasure

By Drew Gallagher

For The Free Lance-Star

WITH about 40 pages to go in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s “The Prisoner of Heaven,”  it slowly dawned on me that there was no way he was going to be able to resolve the main plot thread in the remaining pages, I was a bit peeved.  The buildup to the re-emergence of the villain was straight from storytelling 101 and reminded me of one of the many pleasures of the “Harry Potter” books in that the reader always knew that “he who must not be named” was going to make a rather spectacular appearance.  But after the initial disappointment, I blew past acceptance to expectation, because the best thing about “The Prisoner of Heaven” is that there has to be another book in the series featuring the Semperes and their trusted friend Fermin.

Ruiz Zafón picks up many of the characters he utilized in the first two novels of his Barcelona series (“The Shadow of the Wind” and “The Angel’s Game”), but also introduces a couple of new characters who are certain to figure prominently in the next installment, including the aforementioned villain who exists in this novel mainly by reputation.

In a clever bit of 50-year-ahead foreshadowing, the book opens close to Christmas with The Sempere and Son bookshop experiencing a prolonged sales drought and both father and son worrying that they will be unable to pay their bills if business doesn’t pick up soon.

Enter one of the mysterious characters that Ruiz Zafón conjures so well, with  his subsequent purchase of one of the most expensive books in the shop, and the story unfolds rolling back almost 20 years to when Spain was embroiled in the terror that engulfed the country during the rise of the Franco regime.

The mysterious Fermin was unfortunate to have experienced the worst of that era, including a prison sentence that was a death sentence for most.  His escape, covered up for nearly two decades, is about to be exposed on the eve of his wedding day and it has cast a pall over both Fermin and Daniel Sempere.

Sequential order is not a problem with these three books and if “The Prisoner of Heaven” is your first, second or third, your  enjoyment, I am confident, will be no less.

Ruiz Zafón has created three magical books that, as Stephen King noted, are proof that the gothic novel did not pass with the end of the 19th century and is alive and well in 2012 and, by all indications, into the future with the promise of a fourth installment.

Drew Gallagher  is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania County.


By Carlos Ruiz Zafón

(Harper, $25.99, 288 pp.)



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  • Armoniae

    I read the Shadow of the Wind. I found this book very
    easy to read. The author describes the characters in a way that once you have
    read the history of one of them, you will not forget it. I enjoy it