Sunday, 21 July 2019

The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: A Review

I've been fairly busy recently but don't think that I've been neglecting my summer reading challenge because that is far from the truth. In fact, I'm actually building up a bit of a backlog of books to review.

Labyrinth of the spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon header image

This one, The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, was especially meaningful for me. I have absolutely adored the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, and everything else that Carlos Ruiz Zafón has put out, since I first read The Shadow of the Wind a few years back. As the final chapter in the series, this was always going to be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me and I was definitely not disappointed. 




The Labyrinth of the Spirits



The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon front cover



Rating: ★★★★★
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón (translated by Lucia Graves)
Publisher: W&N
​First Published: 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction
Series: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #4
Format: Hardback (832 pages)



Synopsis



As a child, Daniel Sempere discovered among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books an extraordinary novel that would change the course of his life. Now a young man in the Barcelona of the late 1950s, Daniel runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop and enjoys a seemingly fulfilling life with his loving wife and son. Yet the mystery surrounding the death of his mother continues to plague his soul despite the moving efforts of his wife Bea and his faithful friend Fermin to save him.

Just when Daniel believes he is close to solving this enigma, a conspiracy more sinister than he could have imagined spreads its tentacles from the hellish regime. That is when Alicia Gris appears, a soul born out of the nightmare of the war.

She is the one who will lead Daniel to the edge of the abyss and reveal the secret history of his family, although at a terrifying price.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits is an electrifying tale of passion, intrigue and adventure. Within its haunting pages Carlos Ruiz Zafon masterfully weaves together plots and subplots in an intricate and intensely imagined homage to books, the art of storytelling and that magical bridge between literature and our lives.



My Review



"This will make for some heavy reading", I joked to Matt as we collected my reserved copy of The Labyrinth of the Spirits from our local library. I'll admit that I was pretty intimidated by the size of this book. There was no way I'd manage to get through more than 800 pages in only three weeks. In the end, I loved it so much that it only took me three days. But hey, "reality never beats fiction, at least not quality fiction."

It goes without saying that my review is fairly biased purely because the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series is one of my favourites. The world in which the series takes place has become somewhat of a second home to me over the years and so this final book was incredibly bittersweet for me to read. I know I already said this in my June Favourites post but it's worth repeating here: I will miss the Sempere family and their associates as if they were my own.

If you're familiar with the series, you'll know that it was created in such a way that the reader need not follow in order allowing them to dive in and out of the narratives. I've only read the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series in order but I'm curious as to whether reading it in an alternative manner would make certain motifs more prominent.

"Stories have no beginning and no end, only doors through which one may enter them."

Reading The Prisoner of Heaven and The Labyrinth of the Spirits in quick succession allowed me to follow the story while the characters and backstories were still fresh in my mind. This was especially important for me as I have a tendency to forget the smaller details over time.

Now The Labyrinth of the Spirits doesn't pick up exactly where The Prisoner of Heaven left off but those timelines do intersect eventually and we get to revisit the pivotal moment where Daniel visits his mother's grave. Prior to this, we see Daniel spiral into darkness following the discovery that his mother was murdered by Don Mauricio Valls.

This darkness leads him to do certain things which are completely out of character and while I can understand that this is needed to convey his increasing frustration and anger, it's a little bit heartbreaking. Daniel is a character that I had an awful lot of respect for and all of that respect is gone almost instantaneously in one particular scene in this book. I truly felt for the characters involved, the disappointment of someone you care about letting you down because their emotions have clouded their judgement and eaten away at their ability to recognise right from wrong.

Meanwhile a new character, Alicia Gris, finds herself becoming increasingly involved with the Sempere family as she investigates the disappearance of Valls guided by a mysterious book found hidden inside his desk. This thrilling case feels very cat-and-mouse at times with someone close always watching. As an avid thriller reader, I particularly enjoyed these elements within the story as it built up the tension.

My favourite part of the book was ultimately the final section. I loved the way that Zafón wrapped everything up, bringing the entire series together in a celebration of the written word. I won't spoil it because it really is beautifully poignant and deserves to be experienced first-hand without any prior knowledge or expectation.

"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it."

I feel like this quote perfectly sums up my sentiments for the entire series. I would love to pass on the magic to my son once he is much older and able to stomach some of the more grotesque and deeply gothic references but for now, I will carry the stories inside my soul as though they were a part of me. Because I suppose, for a moment at least, they were a part of me after all.

Have you read the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series yet? If you haven't, I highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible. Carlos Ruiz Zafón has a natural talent for his craft which results in some of the most beautifully haunting storytelling I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

What's your favourite book series? Let me know in the comments!

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2 comments on "The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: A Review"
  1. I loved Shadow of the Wind and am currently re-reading it. Will have to add the other titles to my reading list. Thanks for sharing this post.

    Jane

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    1. Thank you so much for reading Jane! I hope that you enjoy the rest of the series as much as I have. 😊 x

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