The Prisoner of Heaven

Written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

Faithful readers of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game will be delighted to find that he has released a related book featuring some key characters from the previous novels. Readers who have read the earlier books will note that this book is slimmer in scope, though just as fascinating. The Prisoner of Heaven centers on the search for a hidden truth and the sacrifices that are made in the name of love.

It is 1957, and Daniel Sempere still works with his father at their bookshop in Barcelona, alongside their longtime friend and employee, Fermín Romero de Torres. A mysterious (and perhaps dangerous) unidentified man has come to the bookshop, looking for Fermín, and leaves him a cryptic note.

Daniel, who is still haunted by the death of his mother, Isabella, when he was a child, becomes intent on learning more about this stranger. In the meantime, his wife, Beatrice, has been acting suspiciously, and Daniel is afraid that she is having an affair. Soon Daniel learns that Fermín knows more about Daniel’s mother than he is letting on; eventually, Fermín relays the story of what happened to him while in prison many years earlier, which sheds light on key pieces of information that Daniel needs to partially resolve the questions that have plagued him for years. Nonetheless, the author has left the storyline open for another sequel, or, perhaps, a prequel.

Ruiz Zafón writes with his usual blend of wit and insight, with prose that is both lyrical and provocative. While this story-within-a-story may be enjoyed as a stand-alone, it is highly advisable to read both of his previous novels to be able to fully understand and appreciate the background accounts and themes that are woven into The Prisoner of Heaven.