Customer Review

71 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy follow-up to a modern classic, July 11, 2012
This review is from: The Prisoner of Heaven: A Novel (Hardcover)
At once a sequel to The Angel's Game and both a sequel and prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, The Prisoner of Heaven continues to tie together the twisting and melancholy narratives of David Martín and Daniel Sempere. This time, Zafón uses the unlikeliest of sources to accomplish this intertwining of narratives: at the heart of The Prisoner of Heaven, though not the titular prisoner itself, is Fermín Romero de Torres, and his story, from his first steps through the gates at Castle Montjuďc, to his eventual meeting with Daniel Sempere, is surprisingly heartbreaking and and important to the overall narrative of the series' overall story.

In The Shadow of the Wind, Fermín's role as sidekick often fell into the role of comedic relief, allowing Zafón to break the tension with a well-timed joke about flatulence or an off-beat observation about the world, or those who people it. His place in the novel is important for helping to maintain tone, and showcasing Zafón's sly humour, but the reader always had the sense the Fermím's past held secrets as dark and interesting as anyone else in the novel. The Prisoner of Heaven explores some of those secrets, but not all. In response to Fermín's upcoming nuptiuals, Daniel sets out to ensure that his friend can be legally wed under his nom de plume, Fermín Romero de Torres, and in doing so discovers secrets about his own past and his connection with David Martín, lightly touched upon in The Angel's Game. It's a thrilling ride for anyone who has closely followed the labyrinth of relationships that Zafón has woven through his novels.

One aspect that surprised me is how The Prisoner of Heaven makes The Angel's Game a stronger novel, by exploring David Martín from the perspective of an outsider. It's difficult to go into without digging deep into spoiler territory, which is not my objective for this review, but it sheds a lot of light on Martín's actions in The Angel's Game and explicitly explains the origins of his delusions, suggesting that the confusing narrative of The Angel's Game, often considered one of its flaws when considering it as a stand-alone novel, might serve a greater role in the series as a whole. I have one prediction for the final novel that, if it comes true, will be incredibly bold and perfectly executed by Zafón. Time will tell if I'm correct, but it will make subsequent re-reads of the entire series take on a new perspective.

There are the familiar characters that we all met and grew to love in The Shadow of the Wind. Fermín, of course, plays an important role, as does Daniel, though his next time to truly shine will be in the following novel, but it was pleasent and nostalgic to again be re-introduced to Bea and Daniel's father, and Issac at the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, all of whom have grown up a bit, matured and evolved since we last saw them. Except Isaac; he never seems to change. And that's just fine.

Barcelona, too, has changed since readers last visited, slowly crawling out from under the shadow of World War II and the civil war that wracked much of Spain through the latter-half of the '30s. Gone is the baroque and ethereal Barcelona, ripe for the lingering ghosts and haunted dreams that formed much of the core tale in The Shadow of the Wind, replaced with a more contemporary Barcelona, snow falling over the city, instead of sunshine bleaching its streets. Due to the dual-timeline structure of the narrative, Zafón is able to press these two visions of Barcelona together, illustrating the cities transformation through the intervening years between the `beginning' of Fermín's tale (1939) to the opening pages of this tale (1957). It's another touching love letter from Zafón to the City of Counts.

The Prisoner of Heaven is a worthy follow-up to The Shadow of the Wind and everything I hoped The Angel's Game would be. It is not as deep or labyrinthine as The Shadow of the Wind, by virtue of its length, and it does not play tricks on the reader through a twisted, unreliable narrator like The Angel's Game (or does it?), but stands between the two of them as a strong novel that, while it doesn't stand entirely on its own, as the previous two novels did, appears to be the keystone novel in Zafón's series. Many questions are raised in The Prisoner of Heaven, pondering the relationship between the tales of Daniel Sempere and David Martín, and the final volume of the quartet, along with those answers, cannot come soon enough. The Prisoner of Heaven is a near pitch-perfect novel, and fans of The Shadow of the Wind have much to look forward to.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 18, 2012 11:12:15 AM PDT
Great review. It makes me want to re-read the other two novels.It made me realize how much i had forgotten.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 19, 2012 8:17:36 PM PDT
I completely agree with Lindaloo. Thanks so much for this review. I can't wait to read this third novel in the series!

Posted on Jul 24, 2012 10:33:44 AM PDT
A. Wayong says:
I really enjoyed reading 'The Shadow of the Wind' but I wasn't as excited by 'The Angel's Game'. I found TSotW to be quite engaging despite the cliche ending; TAG was hard to get into (for me, the 'unreliable narrator' device makes it more difficult to connect to the book unless the narrator is convicing & likable despite her/his delusions like the narrators in 'Spider', 'Drood' & Jackson's 'We have Always Lived in the Castle'. Would I still like 'The Prisoner of Heaven'?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 24, 2012 10:37:39 AM PDT
Aidan Moher says:
I beleive so, A. Wayong. The narrative is much more straight forward in tPoH and the voice is clearer than it was in tAG. I beleive there's a bit of unreliable narrative in tPoH, but closer to what we saw in tSotW, rather than the mess we saw in tAG. I feel that tPoH is a far superior novel to tAG. Give it a shot!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 24, 2012 7:28:41 PM PDT
Maria Cruz says:
I agree with you. I tried and tried to enjoy tAG but couldn't. Tsotw is my favorite book in the series so far.

Posted on Oct 30, 2012 4:35:08 PM PDT
D. Hernandez says:
Thanks for this review. I loved Shadow of the Wind and put it into my top 5 list, but The Angel's Game (despite Zafon's wonderful prose) left me going, "really?" I wasn't sure if I was excited for the next book, but this review leaves me eager to start. Thanks again!
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