Friday, February 20, 2015

The Prisoner of Heaven

The third entry in Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Cemetary of Forgotten Books series is entitled The Prisoner of Heaven. This story takes place mainly in Barcelona in two different time periods, in the late 1930s and the early 1950s. The narrative in the 1930s sets the stage for the later story elements. Zafon then seamlessly bounces back and forth between the present and the past in weaving his tale of darkness and of light. As this work is part of his ongoing series, we come to understand further the history and the makeup of several of his previously developed characters. It is interesting to note that Zafon indicates that the different books in this series can be read in any order without issue. This is because the individual novels really do work as stand-alone novels on the one hand, and on the other hand, he has a way of connecting the present to the past across several generations in a way that allows his readers to keep up without losing a single thread.

This story begins in the late 1930s in a dungeon in the depths of Montjuic Castle, where anyone labeled as a revolutionary, a subversive, or a Communist is dumped into a cold, dark, and vermin-infested cage in the bowels of this ancient fortress until they expire. This is a place without mercy, sympathy, compassion, or hope. There we find David Martin, the main character in The Angel's Game, in a cell next to a man named Fermin. David earned his place after he left a trail of death and unanswered questions in his dealings with forces that he never full grasped. His past has left him a broken man. Fermin is a man with a checkered past that eventually caught up with him. However, he has always been a survivor. Fermin and David strike up a friendship through the common iron that links their cells. While Fermin dreams of a future, David slowly succumbs to his regrets and his loss. However, David has his lucid moments, and through them he develops a clever plan to help Fermin escape that pit of hell upon the hill. His only request is that he watch over the matron of the Sempere and Sons bookstore, a woman who through patience, fiestiness, and compassion, connected with David and calmed his spirit.

Zafon deftly brought his characters to life with a skillful touch that developed a Barcelona that was real, from its packed neighborhoods, to its politics, to its smells and sounds. I have thoroughly enjoyed each of the works of Zafon in this series and they have each left a mark on me. At this point, it seems apparent that Zafon has not brought this series to conclusion. I look forward to the next part of the tale.