While the book itself is filled with excellent prose and lively characters, The Prisoner of Heaven falls short in the actual storytelling department. Compared to Zafon’s previous two books, which were both over 500 pages and told complete stories, Prisoner of Heaven doesn’t even reach 300 and ends without any kind of closure whatsoever, as though his agent walked in on Zafon writing one day, took a look at what he had done so far, and thought ‘Good enough!’ before whisking it off to the publishers.
Zafon presents readers with a plethora of mysteries, all very loosely related, and then never explores them, leaving plenty of unanswered questions that even the characters themselves want answers to and repeatedly wonder why they aren’t given. It’s obvious that Zafon has a follow up novel in the works, taking place immediately after this one that will act as a Part II to the story. But as it stands, Prisoner of Heaven not only feels incomplete, but IS incomplete. With new, obviously principal characters still being introduced even in the last chapters, I went so far as to look online to see if perhaps there was an error with the eBook version that left me without an entire second half. There wasn’t. And because of this, Prisoner of Heaven feels more like a fan fiction story focusing on everyone’s favorite character, Fermin Romero de Torres, rather than on the story as a whole.
Don’t get me wrong – were it the first act of an actual, complete book, you wouldn’t be reading such a negative review. What story we do get is engaging and wrought with emotion and beautiful imagery. But it’s because it’s being sold as a complete novel and because The Prisoner of Heaven only exists as a lead up to another, unreleased novel that the disappointment I felt at its premature ending was so severe. Had they advertised the book as a ‘Part I’ from the get go, my reaction and expectations would have been vastly different.
As it stands, if you’re considering reading the book, I’d recommend waiting until the inevitable box set containing both parts of the one story is released, that way you’re not stuck in an unfinished limbo like the rest of us.