Book Review: THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I originally reviewed this for Shelf Awareness for Readers, and am reprinting it here with permission.

Fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series finally have another installment to enjoy with The Prisoner of Heaven, which begins right before Christmas in 1957 Barcelona. A mysterious man with missing fingers comes into Sempere & Sons, the bookstore where Daniel (The Shadow of the Wind’s protagonist) works, and buys an expensive edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. He leaves it at the store with a cryptic message inside for Fermín, Daniel’s best friend and coworker. When Daniel presses for the meaning of the inscription, Fermín tells him the awful truth, including the real reason Daniel’s mother died.

Fermín’s sense of humor helps readers through some of the more horrific incidents when he talks about his prison stint in 1939-1940, when he met the writer David Martín (from The Angel’s Game). Daniel’s mother, Isabella, also makes an impression as David’s friend, who tirelessly lobbies to get him out.

Part of the intrigue of these three books is to see how all the characters and pieces fit together (even if some details don’t match what was disclosed at the end of Game), and as a note says at the beginning of this novel, they can be read in any order.

The Prisoner of Heaven doesn’t quite capture the magic of Shadow, but is more engrossing than Game. Like them, this is a tale about—and for—people who are passionate about books and the art of writing. It contains Zafón’s usual wit and eye for period detail, and ends with a cliffhanger indicating that Daniel’s journey down a dark path is just beginning.

Nerd verdict: Engrossing Heaven, if a bit in Shadow‘s shadow

Can’t get enough of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books? You can read about its origins in a free short story by Zafón that HarperCollins has made available here.

Buy Prisoner now from Amazon| Buy it from an indie bookstore

This blog will be quiet for about a week, as I’ll be out of town for a family emergency. I wish you all happy reading until we meet again.



  • Reply
    July 19, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I haven’t read any of these, but you’ve piques my interest. I need to hit a different library today so I’ll add this author to my list. Thanks Elyse! (nice to know I’m not the only one up so early)

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      July 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Yes, start with THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and let me know what you think!

  • Reply
    Natalie ~ the Coffee and a Book Chick
    July 19, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I only read the first in the series so now clearly I am way behind. Need to catch up! I love the Cemetery of Forgotten Books!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      July 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      Me, too! You can jump back in with this one. I think it’s stronger than ANGEL’S GAME.

  • Reply
    July 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Loved Shadow but still haven’t read Game. Everyone’s so-so reaction has me taking my time.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      July 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      The good thing is that you don’t have to read GAME before this.

Leave a Reply