Book Review: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 280
First published: 2012
I got this book: from Harper (HarperCollins) for review
Genre: historical fiction
Extra: See also the related short story about the Cemetry of Forgotten Books HERE.


The Prisoner of Heaven: What it is about

From the publisher’s website: “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. ”

The Prisoner of Heaven: What I thought

This book draws you in straight away, just like it did to me with The Shadow of the Wind: it’s so beautifully written and mysterious. When a stranger enters the bookshop at the beginning of the book, the story begins straight away. Apparently this person knows something about Fermín Romero de Torres, who works at the bookshop but is not present at the time. Fermín has a mysterious past and Daniel follows the stranger across Barcelona to try and find out more about him.

Then the story goes a bit flat for a short while but really picks up when Fermín tells Daniel about his past in prison. This is intermixed with the story of Daniel in the “now”, which is 1957. Eventually, the characters from Fermín’s past and from the present time come together in a thrilling ending.

A note at the beginning of the book says that the books in this series can be read in any order. I’d only read the first book, The Shadow of the Wind, and had not read the second book The Angel’s Game, yet. This was not a problem at all. In fact, in The Prisoner of Heaven, not all that much happens in the present time, so that most of the book is about the past, from before the time of The Shadow of the Wind

We learn about the time Fermín spent in prison, we hear about the writer David Martín, who wrote The Angel’s Game, a book that I guess is focused on in the Zafón book with the same name. We also find out about Isabella Sempere, Daniel’s mother, and how she died.

I liked the story in the past best.The present-day (1957) story was a little weaker and didn’t seem to serve a lot of purpose. Only at the end the story lines come together, and past overtakes the present and plays an important role again.

The book is full of adventure, suffering, trust and mistrust. Even if the story would not appeal to you at first, try the book for its fantastic writing style. Check out the related short story about the Cemetry of Forgotten Books HERE to sample the great writing of Zafón..

Have you read this book?

Did you enjoy it?

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

22 Responses to Book Review: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

  1. I too enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind immensely, Judith, but haven’t bought his other books (yet). Time to look out for them, I think.

  2. cbjames says:

    I’m posting my review tomorrow. I did like the book, though I think you’re opinion of it is a bit higher than mine. It’s definitely a fun read for fans of The Shadow of the Wind. Any trip to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is a good trip to take.

  3. Chinoiseries says:

    What an interesting set-up! I think I’ll do the old-fashioned thing and read Shadow of the Wind and Angel’s Game (both on the shelves) first. It’s good to hear that you liked it a lot though 🙂

  4. This sounds really interesting… plus you made me want to get to my copy of Shadown Of The Wind.

  5. Rosemary W says:

    I’m about halfway through it and get the same feeling as I did reading Shadow of the Wind – terrific.

  6. JoV says:

    Interesting to hear that you don’t have to read the Angel’s Game before you read this. I love Shadow of the Wind, there will be a time when I’ll read the next two. Glad you like it!

  7. Hope I get a chance to get to this one soon. SO many on my list, but this sounds great – loved your review.

  8. Roxanne says:

    I have read the first two books so I would love to read this one as well. I am waiting for my mother to buy this one, as she has the first two as well. If she doesn’t then I might buy it myself.

  9. Vasilly says:

    Your review really clears things up for me. I haven’t read the first two books in the series but I own this one. Now I can read this without worrying about what I’m missing. Thanks!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Vasilly, I think that would be perfectly fine. Maybe if you’ve read the other books you’ve come to know and love the characters, but there is no need to do so.

  10. I have The Angel’s Game to read too – but I might just start with this one. Thanks for the great review!

  11. Kristen M. says:

    The Angel’s Game is the story of David Martin and his writing so you just know a lot more about him if you read it first. But you definitely wouldn’t have to read it in the written order and it seems like it worked out just fine for you. And I really did want to go back and read the first two books yet again after reading this one!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Kristen, thanks, that’s what I thought. Since David Martn was a minor character here, I don’t think it mattered that I didn’t read *The Anger’s Game* first. But of course, I will do so as soon as I get the chance!

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