Carlos Ruiz Zafon's first novel, The Shadow of the Wind
, followed Daniel Sempere in 1940s Barcelona as he and Fermin, a former political prisoner turned fellow bookseller, investigated what had happened to an author whose works were mysteriously being destroyed. The follow-up/loose prequel was The Angel's Game
, which followed David Martin in 1920s Barcelona when he was hired by a ghostly figure to write a novel. The two books are loosely linked via The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the fact that Martin knew Daniel's father, but they are essentially stand-alone novels.
This book imagines what happens after each book -- how Fermin and Martin crossed paths as prisoners in 1939 and how threads of that connection come back to haunt Fermin and Daniel in 1957.
I thought this was meant to be a trilogy, but I'm guessing I was wrong and there will be a fourth book (and possibly more), as this one didn't truly reach a resolution....Zafon didn't tell us what ultimately happened with a couple of important characters, then introduced a character to us near the end and did nothing with her after a single page. I liked this book, but I got to page 278 and things just kind of...stopped.
Ultimately, this book felt rushed to me. Publisher, writer, translator - I'm not sure whose fault it was, but somebody's impatience showed through. Zafon is excellent at constructing complicated, tense Gothic mysteries and unraveling the answers slowly as his characters investigate. Here, though, most of the unraveling takes the form of one character telling another character a story, which is an incredibly lazy form of storytelling that ultimately makes the whole book feel like filler. It's just something to tide us over until the next installment is ready, and maybe that's just the publisher trying to increase profits. I appreciate that Zafon has attempted to connect all of these characters together and create a new mystery for the readers, but this was less-than-satisfying as a piece in and of itself. Also, there were some odd word choices that, for the first time, had me questioning Lucia Graves.
I'd still recommend this to anyone who likes the series, but you should have the stories of both previous novels fresh in your head. The publisher would like you to believe you can read this without knowledge of the other two, but I disagree. There were many instances when I had to dig through my memory to understand the wink-wink jokes made throughout this book, and readers unfamiliar with Shadow of the Wind
and Angel's Game
are likely to feel as though they've missed something.