The Prisoner of Heaven, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Prisoner of HeavenAs with Broken Harbor a couple months ago, I found myself opening up this book while stuck in traffic on the way home, becoming immediately engrossed, and picking it up again as soon as I got home. Unlike Broken Harbor, I then had to go eat dinner or something and I more or less forgot about the book for the next week or two. Or three.

I mean, I read a bit of it here and there, but even though I was totally interested in the story I found it incredibly easy to do other things besides devour it. I think this problem stems primarily from the fact that I barely remember the details of the two previous books, especially The Angel’s Game, which this story heavily references. Any time there was something that I didn’t quite understand, I found myself thinking a moment about whether it was maybe something that I was supposed to know or something that I would find out soon. Some of those things I’m still not sure about.

Another problem I had with this novel was that it didn’t have a really solid plot. The story is from the point of view of our old friend Daniel, but is more or less about Fermín Romero de Torres, a close friend of Daniel and his family. There’s a frame story about Fermín getting married, which leads into Fermín’s backstory when he reveals to Daniel that he’s supposed to be not just dead, but executed. We learn about this terrible prison that Fermín was in with our less-old friend David Martín, and a bit about the prison’s warden that goes unresolved (I smell another book in the series!), and then there’s a strange trip to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and then it’s over.

And yet I still enjoyed reading this novel! Zafón and his translator turn a fantastic phrase, and I am so intrigued by his post-war Barcelona and Sempere’s bookshop and the whole world that Zafón has built. You can bet I’ll be picking up his next book whenever it comes out, and perhaps it will live up to the high expectations I will no doubt set for it!

Recommendation: Go read The Shadow of the Wind, for sure, and if you like the atmosphere of that book continue on!

Rating: 7/10
(RIP)

The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (20 June — 24 June)

Wow. What a book. I have to admit that I’m still not exactly sure what happened in this book, but in this case I think that’s a good thing!

Zafón takes us to turn-of-the-century Barcelona to meet David Martín, a writer of crime stories first in the newspaper and then as part of a ridiculously long contract for monthly novels. After his first story is published, Martín receives a note from an Andreas Corelli congratulating him on his talent and expressing a wish to work with him in the future. These sorts of notes keep popping up until one day Martín and Corelli meet under odd circumstances and Martín decides to take Corelli up on his offer. This would be all well and good except it seems that Corelli has more than a few tricks up his sleeve and that Martín’s life — his health and his world — may be in a bit of danger.

This novel is a bit fantastical but still reads like something that could happen to someone you know someday. I was never really sure what was going on with Corelli or with Diego Marlasca, another mysterious character in the novel, but I was with Martín 100 percent… until near the end, when all of the novel’s truths are thrown up in the air like a deck of cards and I was turning pages furiously to see which cards would land face-up. (How about that metaphor?)

The ending was sort of a let-down; I thought it could have ended earlier, but I may be missing something. I’ll have to read this through again in the future.

Rating: 8/10
(Chunkster Challenge, Orbis Terrarum Challenge: Spain)

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2 December — 7 December)

This book was on my “To Read” list two summers ago, but didn’t make it onto this year’s list, probably because I couldn’t remember why it was on my list in the first place — that’s the problem with having so many good books out there! But, fortunately (or was it fate…), I saw it again on another blog and was reminded that I wanted to read it because it was a book about books. So brilliant, right?

Very right.

So our protagonist is Daniel Sempere, a boy living in Barcelona just after the Spanish Civil War. His father, a bookseller, takes his almost-11-year-old son to a place called the Cemetary of Forgotten Books, where Daniel is told to select a book that he will adopt to make sure it never disappears and will always stay alive.

Daniel finds a book called The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax, which turns out to be pretty much the best book Daniel’s ever read. When he learns that Carax’s books have been forgotten not just because of their limited publishing but because a mysterious stranger, going by the name of Shadow‘s protagonist, has been collecting and burning the novels, Daniel sets off to find out the truth behind the rumors of Carax’s life.

I very much liked this book. It is a translation from the original Spanish, so a few of the turns of phrase are a bit awkward, and a couple things don’t quite line up, fact-wise, but all in all the book has a solid plot and an excellent story. I have to say also that I had the big twists figured out from the beginning, but I still had an excellent time finding out just why those twists happened. There are so many lives intertwined in this story, and all of them are interesting.

Rating: 8/10