Mar 19, 2013

Book Review: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruis Zafon

It helps to know a little about the volatile political situation in Spain in the 1930s and 40s in order to really understand The Prisoner of Heaven, as well as the two previous books in the series, The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game. The novel to me is almost an allegory of what the country Spain went through during its brutal Civil War from 1936-1939 and the subsequent years under the Franco military dictatorship. It seems the life of the character Fermin Romero de Torres during those early years mirrors what much of the country suffered.
The book begins in a relatively peaceful and prosperous time in 1957 and flashes back for at least half of the book to 1939 and 1940 when Fermin was jailed under horrifying conditions in a castle prison in Barcelona, because of his political activities. In prison, he promises the Prisoner of Heaven, David Martin, incarcerated only for his literary talents, to watch over Isabel Sempere, her husband, and their son Daniel, a family who owns a bookstore in the city.

The inmate called the Prisoner of Heaven, David, was in jail because of prison governor Mauricio Valls, who had David jailed for purely self-interested reasons. Fermin is declared dead after trying to escape from the prison with David's help, but brought back to life, as it were, to reappear in the 1950s as a worker in the bookstore run by Sempere and his son Daniel, now a grown man.

When he discovers secrets about his mother Isabel, Daniel starts on a mission of revenge for the past, a mission that leads him to hunt for Mauricio Valls, and this quest I think will continue into the next book in the series.

I read The Shadow of the Wind but missed The Angel's Game, both books of high literary value that are referred to in The Prisoner of Heaven.  These books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle don't have to be read in sequence, but first, bone up just a bit on the Spanish Civil War in order to get a background of the excellent novel you are about to read.

Title: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruz Zafon
Harper Perennial: March 12, 2013
Objective rating: 5/5
Review copy from publisher
For more reviews, visit the TLC Book Tour schedule

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of bestselling novels, The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game, is one of the world’s most read writers. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, garnering numerous international prizes. He divides his time between Barcelona and Los Angeles.
Find out more about Zafón at his website, connect with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.


  1. I loved the atmosphere and the writing. All three of these books are so good that once I started reading I couldn't put them down.

  2. This sounds really good but perhaps disturbing. I find that reading about life under such brutal dictatorships is troubling.

    The Spanish Civil War period and ensuing dictatorship is interesting but terribly tragic.

  3. I read this one and liked it a lot, but my favorite will always be The Angel's Game. It forced me to think and change some of my beliefs, only to have them come back at me in the end and reattach themselves more firmly. A great series of books. I am so glad that you loved this one!

  4. I liked this one better than Angel but it wasn't as strong as Shadow (of course).

  5. This sounds great, I have The Shadow of the Wind on my tbr.

  6. I liked this one but didn't love it as I did the first book.

  7. I've been meaning to jump into this series for a long time ... I must bump it up higher on my TBR list.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  8. I need to read Angel's Game first. But at least I have it on my shelf :)

  9. Thank you for the author's website.


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