Monday, 10 December 2012

Zafon's Barcelona tetralogy continues with The Prisoner of Heaven

The first one was The Shadow of the Wind., the good daughter, who always comes home on time and brings joy to her parents.

The second one was The Angel's Game, the bad daughter, the naughty, dark, suspicious and always causing trouble one.

The third one is The Prisoner of Heaven, the one I will call the honest and revealing sister, the one that tells you truths that prompt revenge.

The Prisoner of Heaven brings us back to the mysterious streets of Barcelona and once again back to the world of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere & Sons bookshop. Like The Shadow of the Wind., The Prisoner of Heaven is also narrated by Daniel Sempere. Now a grown man, married to his beloved Beatrice and raising a boy named Julian (after the mysterious author Julian Carax), for Daniel life seems to be settling into place. The marriage of his best friend Fermin to Bernarda and the arrival of a strange man connected to Fermin's past, however, set to reveal secrets deeply connected to Daniel's childhood. The figure of the strange writer David Martin, the narrator of The Angel's Game, also emerges in Fermin's terrible past. Daniel's life is much more connected to Martin's than he expects as a special bond between Daniel's mother Isabella and the writer is revealed. While Fermin takes a journey down memory lane, Daniel discovers a mother he didn't know, a villain he wants to kill, and a writer, whose books he must read. Set in the light of imprisonment, betrayal and evil the Prisoner of Heaven reveals secrets that will provoke Daniel to seek revenge.

It is extremely difficult to write a review about Zafon's books as any little hint might destroy the immense pleasure of flipping through the pages, of following trails and people, of wondering what will happen next. Zafon is the same enchanting author i remember from the first two books. His prose sticks you to the chair, keeps you awake in the middle of night, submerges you into a beautiful but dangerous Barcelona in the 1960s. The story unravels quite naturally and remains connected to its prequels. Or should I say sequels? In an interview, Zafon shared that his Barcelona tetralogy shouldn't be regarded as a tetralogy. The books can be read in any order and still make perfect sense. Without ruining the surprise, I would just say that The Prisoner of Heaven reveals facts about David Martin's life that make me want to read The Angel's Game seeing it in a different light. Towards the end of the novel Daniel once again returns to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, now with Fermin, to discover David Martin's last book, The Angel's Game.

The only negative aspect of The Prisoner of Heaven is its ending. The last sentence opens the door for the next novel but leaves the reader in a terrible (even painful) anticipation.

The Barcelona tetralogy is a set of books about...well about books. Books that hide secrets, books that reveal the past, books that must be protected because they are among the biggest treasures. Rare books and evil books, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is where they are buried only to be rediscovered at the right time. God knows what Zafon has prepared in his next novel.

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