Synopsis: Barcelona,1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermín Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city's dark past. His appearance plunges Fermín and Daniel into a dangerous adventure that will take them back to the 1940's and the dark early days of Franco's dictatorship. The terrifying events of that time launch them on a journey fraught with jealousy, suspicion, vengeance, and lies, a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives.
I immediately fell in love with Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind when I read it way back in 2005. I loved the language, the mood, the main character, Daniel, and the plot. It is a book I never tire of reading over and over. I wasn't as enamored with its sequel, The Angel's Game, only giving it three out of five stars. Unfortunately, I can't remember specifically why I only thought it was okay and I didn't write a review for it. Probably because it didn't move me one way or the other, like its predecessor did. Which explains why it has taken me over a year to pick up the third book in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven.
What I'm about to say is probably something I need to remember as I continue on my writing journey. Ready? Here it goes.
Not every book needs a sequel.
Yes, publishers love series. Readers love series. Some writers do, too. And, series are wonderful, if the world and characters are constantly growing and enriched. While The Prisoner of Heaven (★★) does add depth to one character's back story, the flashback structure of the book was clunky as were the attempts to connect what happened in the past with what was happening in the book's present. There was no flow to the story; it read like a forced attempt to get in back story to set up the next book.
What I loved most about Shadow of the Wind was the language and the mood. Ruiz Zafon painted a vivid picture of Barcelona, so much so it is high on the list of places I want to visit. That lyrical language was missing from The Prisoner of Heaven, as was the clear point of view. There were many times I felt an author intrusion in the narrative, which was shocking from a writer I had previously esteemed. Needless to say, I won't be reading future installments of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series and I can't recommend either The Angel's Game or The Prisoner of Heaven. Read The Shadow of the Wind, enjoy it, and pretend Ruiz Zafon's attempts at making this wonderful, standalone book into a series didn't happen.