Cover Image: The Labyrinth of the Spirits

The Labyrinth of the Spirits

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Member Reviews

This is the fourth and final instalment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. I have to be honest - I have read the first book in the series, and I have the second and third books on my bookshelf, unread. I thought I had actually read them, but as I read this book, it became blatantly obvious that I hadn't. I WILL be rectifying that! However, it isn't actually necessary to read these in order. I don't feel I've missed any of the plot, although I have a sneaking suspicion I would have 'cottoned on' a lot quicker with some of the story lines. 
I loved this book - the characters are so well developed, the story had me reading through my fingers (if you see what I mean!). I wanted the best for the Sempere's for Alicia and Fermin, and they all got the ending they deserved (and that's all I'll say!). 
Parts of the book are toe-curlingly graphic. Alicia's life is not a pleasant one, and one of the other characters has a very bad experience. We get to see the corruptness of government officials in fascist Spain, and the depths they go to for money and power. 
And underlying it all is a love of books that we book lovers all understand: "This is a place of mystery...a sanctuary. 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 loved and dreamed with it."
Yes, I cried. It's a gorgeous book. 
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy of this book.
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This is part of The Cemetery Of Forgotten Books universe, along with Shadow of the Wind, The Angel's Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. They are stand alone stories but are connected through a common setting in Barcelona and some characters that appear in all of the stories. They are Literary, Gothic, Mystical Mystery stories that have helped define the Magical Realism category of fiction.

The book description tells us, "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 Fermín to save him."

They say you can read this series in any order and this was my first Zafón. I found it very slow in the beginning and with the characters changing in different segments, found it very difficult to find a linear plot line to follow. The second half was much easier as the various elements start coming together. The writing itself was undeniably good and there were definitely some exciting passages, but I think I might have to read it again with more familiarity with the characters and how they relate to each other. Hopefully the other books in the series will be easier as a result.

I think I would advise first time readers to start with Shadow of the Wind first.
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The long-awaited new novel from the author of the global bestseller and modern classic, The Shadow of the Wind.

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 Fermín 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 Zafón 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.

To start with, who as a writer or reader would not be enthralled by the idea of a Cemetery of Forgotten Books. With the first book Shadow of the Winds I was completely woven into this amazing story and the world created by the author Carlos Zuis Zafon, it was just breathtaking storytelling, within a world so detailed and descriptive that you felt yourself to be there .Shadow of the Winds was my nominated book for World Book Night during my time as a book giver.
The Labyrinth of the Spirits takes us back to that world and through some very detailed and well written plots and sub plots leads us further into the mysteries of Daniels history. It is a book you cannot put down, one of those treasures that when you do finish it you feel a loss for leaving behind a world that has held you so closely bound and empathic with the characters.
This is a beautifully crafted book and series, with imaginative story telling that is magically binding, drawing the reader in. The author has a talent that makes him stand out as an author, he is magical in his writing. I would recommend this book to everyone. Thank you Carlos Zuis Zafon for sharing such a beautiful story.
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This book is a book of mystery and intrigue. I decided to read it  not having read the earlier ones in the series, 'The Cemetery of Forgotten Books". I am not sure that was the right decision, now I have to go back to the beginning. It can be a stand alone but when I started really enjoying it I kept thinking, what have I missed? The book is set in Spain, the characters are unusual and the storyline is fantasy/magical.
There was a great need for me to read it slowly, partly to understand but partly to stay immersed in the book.. It's complexity is what enthralled me. The author writes with great expression and it left me excited, that  is what made the book so special to me and one I will reread.
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I love this series and it was an immense pleasure to once again immerse myself in Carlos Ruis Zafon's wonderfully gothic Barcelona, with all its intriques, joys and sorrows bound up in a cast of characters that kept me mesmerized through the whole book.
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I cannot believe it has taken me until this year to read the amazing Shadow of the Wind the realease of the final book in the series prompted me to read (and by read I mean devour) all the previous books and I am so glad I did Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an amazing writer and if you haven't yet tried this series you really should.

At the start of the book the reader is given this disclaimer:

"This book is part of a cycle of novels set in the literary universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Although each work within the cycle presents and independent, self-contained tale, they are all connected through characters and storylines, creating thematic and narrative links.

Each individual instalment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series can be read in any order, or separately, enabling the reader to explore the labyrinth of stories along different paths that, when woven together, lead into the heart of the narrative."

Needless to say being the anal bookworm that I am I read the books in publication order and now find it difficult to imagine the story unfolding in any other way.

As this is the last book in the series there is not a lot you can say in a review without spoilers so I will just go with what I loved and why this book did not get 5 stars from me.

The reason I deducted a star is due entirely to one scene featuring one of the series' favourite characters as far as I am concerned this scene had no place in this novel, it was out of character and added nothing to the storyline it was totally unnecessary and if I ever meet the author I really want to know his reasoning behind it.

On now to the things I loved:

1) the setting Barcelona before, during and after the second world war the city comes alive the places are so well drawn I felt I was actually there and the terrifying atmosphere of political upheaval and atrocities committed against normal citizens really racked up the tension.

2) The stories within stories, the role of readers, writers and book sellers and the way all of this links together and forms a battle of good against evil. The way the stories are open to interpretation and how the characters are not always what they seem.

3) The characters - I particularly appreciated Alicia a young woman dealing with chronic pain having recently been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis I found her a compelling and completely relatable character. I loved the way she kept going until pain took over, I loved the portrayal of how you can appear to be "normal" and function while hiding a serious problem, the way she would rely on drugs when it got too bad and the way at the end of the day she way exhausted. For me the author captured this battle perfectly.

4) The way historical events are woven into the story, I can't tell you what they are as they are major spoilers but after reading the book I did some research into the actual facts and they are horrifying.

Who would like this: I would recommend that everyone read this series because if you don't you are really missing something special.
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The Shadow of the Wind is a ten out of ten book for me; I own two copies; I still dream scenes from the cemetery, the pursuits and the old house. I adore Barcelona and Zafon takes you there-around corners, down alleys where winding stone staircases echo ancient footsteps back into the shadowed past and forwards into an uncertain future.

But I could not finish this latest addition to the series. 

The narratives overlap and intertwine in a way that, despite my best efforts, caused my mind to wander...and wonder: Who has translated this book? 
-The descriptive passages too often felt clunky and overworked, for example;
        "Later, when the first glimmer of dawn sketched a hazy Barcelona," or "It was rusty and felt as heavy as my conscience". 
-Whilst other observations felt self-conscious and more suited to a car-bumper sticker, for example;
        "The situation calls for temperance, not petrification." or "Liquor is like rat poison or generosity-the more you make of it, the less effective it becomes." or even "the unexpected often goes hand-in-hand with the unwelcome".

Internet research tells me the translator is the same Lucia Graves who did such a fantastic job in Zafon's other offerings, so I wonder what happened here. Ultimately, having ploughed through the first 250 pages, I wasn't able to make myself persist any further even in the hope that my question could be answered.

If you have not read the series, make sure you read book one. And, if you are able to read Spanish, I recommend you read this addition in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's original voice as some of the most positive reviews seem to be from Spanish speakers.
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A quite magnificent novel that at times is a quite difficult read but then explodes with passion and life. Set in the dark days of Franco it mixes vile characters with heroes raging against the darkness. Beautifully descriptive the feeling of old Barcelona carries one along with this fascinating tale all brought to a glorious climax! Marvellous!!
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I hadn’t read any of the other books in this series, but I will be remedying that as soon as possible because I loved The Labyrinth of the Spirits.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits is set in Franco era Spain where our heroine Alicia Gris begins an investigation into the murky history of the regime.

With the help of a policeman, a besotted suitor and a bookish family Alicia uncovers a massive conspiracy that those involved would do anything to keep secret. Anything.

Alicia is a typical anti-hero, sort of a vampiric Alice in Wonderland on first appearances. In reality, she is a compassionate but deeply troubled young woman suffering with both the physical and mental scars of the savage bombing of Barcelona in 1938.

Alicia is an investigator in Spain’s secret police service, a job she is desperately wanting to escape before it is too late. Reluctantly she agrees to take on one last case for her shadowy boss Leandro. The case of the disappearance of Spain’s culture minister.

Carlos Ruis Zafòn has created a masterpiece in The Labyrinth of Spirits that is both a love letter to Barcelona and to books.

I felt like I had been reading this book forever, partly because I was so invested in how it turns out but also because on my kindle it seemed like a really long book. When I first began it told me I would take ten hours to read it and I am a quick reader. I think it may have taken me longer in the end, but I feel like not one word was wasted.

When I first requested the book for review I was unaware The Labyrinth of the Spirits even belonged to a series, but I didn’t find it a hinderance that I hadn’t read the other books.

Each character in the book contributed to it and I loved them all, but I think my favourite was Fermin. Fermin is eccentric, intelligent, crude, kind and witty.

In the beginning of the book Fermin and Daniel are trying to write a story and to decide how to start it.

‘What if we begin with the story of how you met her?’ I asked.

‘Met who?’

‘Who do you think? Our Alice in the Wonderland of Barcelona.’

The Labyrinth of the Spirits was intricate, lyrical and beautifully written. It is the kind of book you want to read over and over.
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In this book we return to Barcelona: firstly during the Spanish Civil War to witness a girl losing almost everything during a terrible bombing raid and to meet a familiar figure escaping the authorities and then on to 1957 when Daniel Sempere, the boy who featured in Shadow of the Wind, is now running the family bookstore with his father and Fermin, who also featured in the earlier tale. The young girl, Alicia Gris, has grown up to become a ruthless agent for the mysterious Leandro and is sent to discover what has happened to Mauricio Valls - the Culture Minister and former governor of the infamous Montjuic prison - who disappeared during a ball at his mansion. The prison looms large in the story as it is revealed that a number of authors, including David Martin and Victor Mataix - who feature in other volumes in the Cemetery of Lost Books series - were imprisoned there. Gradually it is revealed that Barcelona's dark past has never gone away and is closely linked with the Semperes.

This was a breathtaking read at times as all the elements start to collide and the actions of the past begin to impact on the present. The plot become truly labyrinth-like as identities are revealed, past mysteries solved and stories are discovered within stories (with even more stories inside them...); the language is, in turn, amusing and mystical; the characters are bold, pain-filled and very, very human. If you enjoyed Shadow of the Wind you'll like this - if you haven't yet read it, that's not a problem. This is a labyrinth with more than one entrance...
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I read 'The Shadow of the Wind' while still in secondary school. In fact, it was the book that rekindled my love of reading after years of never reading a thing. I was delighted to be given the chance to read this book.

It's a little odd reading something like this all these years later. My own reading habits have changed over the years and I am not sure I would choose to read this book now had I not read the first in the series as a teenager. 

As it happens, I still found that I loved this book all the same. Maybe my enjoyment was driven by nostalgia, maybe it was built by the fact I read this during a trip to Barcelona. I don't know. But I know I enjoyed the book and falling back into The Cemetery of Forgotten Books all the same.
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I read Shadow of the Wind many years ago and loved it. I requested this one because I was convinced by the assurances that it could read as a stand alone and I had not read the other two books. I now wish that I had and probably reread the first to remind myself as they are complex novels would be more satisfying read in sequence. 
That said, Zafon is such a beautiful writer. The horrors of the civil war and the corruption in Spain are brought vividly to life. However, in the end I think that the book is overlong and the last few chapters, filling in a lot of the details and tying up loose ends had me almost skim reading to get to the end. 
Well worth reading but slightly disappointing for me. 
My thanks to Netgalley for this copy.
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I read all three previous books when they were first published but as that has been over a lot of years, I have to confess that I didn't remember much about them- and with that in mind, I was dreading reading this book.  I am delighted to say that I loved it - it was easy to read and extremely well written and a brilliant story - it did jog my memory to a degree about the previous books but it really didn't matter that I couldn't remember the details - it works as a standalone novel.  I'm sad to have finished it and am now contemplating starting from the beginning again - something I have only done three times before in my life.  Highly recommended - and it makes me pine for a trip to Barcelona!  Brilliant story telling.
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As the conclusion the Shadow of the Wind series this novel is perfect! It ties together so many strands and brings together old and new characters in such an effortless way for such a long book. The character of Alicia, who had appeared briefly as a child early on in the series was fascinating. A flawed and ruthless character but boy do you root for her! She has heart and an appeal that defies the norm and is the string that ties this fourth book up so neatly
As with the other book there is an evil and darkness that permeates through and the menace is personified through the portrayal of the different settings we are taken to. Fermin' s character is genius, with humour in the face of disaster  and an eloquent turn of phrase you would not expect from one such as he, but it works and we love him for it. Daniel's family is the nucleus holding normality together and of course the Cemetry of Forgotten Books is the place all of us would love to visit!
What can I say? I'm a fan  and can't recommend all of the series enough
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I love Carlos Ruiz Zafon's writing it is so beautifully written and I love his work! The story was amazing and I cannot wait for what he comes out with next!
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Once again it is possible to plunge into the universe f The Shadow of the Wind. Wonderful prose unfolds another story of life in Barcelona. At times slipping in to the past the tale has a mystical feel which draws the reader in.
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Overall I did enjoy this fourth instalment in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, but boy is it long and it took me over three weeks to read it (unheard of for me) because at times I did find it a bit of a slog.

Although I have read the previous three novels it was a good while ago and I couldn’t really remember the storylines. This one starts on familiar territory with some characters I recognised – Daniel Sempere, the main protagonist of the first book whose father introduces him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in that first instalment and who now the family bookshop in the heart of Barcelona, and Fermin Romero de Torres, still as roguish and mischievous as I remembered him. However, very soon in the storyline we are taken back in time to the darkest days of Franco’s Spain and introduced to the main character in this book, Alicia Gris, a mysterious woman who works for a shadowy agency which in investigating a number of murders and kidnaps, sometimes alongside the police and at other times very much below the radar of the official authorities.

It’s a very atmospheric novel. The way that Alicia and her colleagues operate in the shadows and the reader is never quite sure which side they’re on reminded me of books I’ve read set in Soviet Russia. At the heart of the book is a novel written by Victor Mataix, one of several political prisoners who were tortured by a particular prison guard who has now risen to a lofty political position in Franco’s regime and whose kidnap is being investigated by Alicia’s organisation. Alicia herself has a dark and troubled past which, as the investigation continues, becomes ever more closely linked to the political events at the heart of the story and also to the lives of several of the protagonists from previous books in the series, leading to a satisfying (if rather complicated) denouement to the story.

So overall yes I’m very glad I read it. It was hard work but at times it was enchanting and compelling with fascinating historical detail and flashes of humour (mainly thanks to Fermin). Now onto something much lighter!
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A gruelling amazing book.
It has been a long time waiting for this final book in the series but defiantly worth the wait.
The characters were just as real and likeable as in the other books in the series with the addition of Alicia who was memorable.
I cannot praise it enough.Five stars all the way.
What a read.
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Started reading this thenafter about 15% realised it’s the fourth book in a series. So I do intend to purchase the others and pick it up where I left of. Although I’m not entirely sure where it’s going I’m thoroughly gripped so I will continue once I’ve purchased the other 3. But definitely so far so good. I’m gutted to have to stop reading :-/
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I would give this more than five stars if I could...


I read the Shadow of the Wind when it first came out and was blown away with it - I've recommended it to many people who I've met and chatted books with, but I'd forgotten just how good a writer CRZ is.

This book is part of 'The Cemetery of Forgotten Books', and I was initially quite worried that it was a sequel type book, which I wouldn't understand, but (as it does promise), it is a standalone book, which very very cleverly intertwines with bits from 'Shadow of the Wind', and I am told, with the other books (which I have not yet read).

The story is far to complex for a simpleton like me to write here in brief, because it can't be simplified by me without completely doing it a disservice.

So, in short, if you liked Shadow of the Wind, then this is phenomenal. Seriously. If you haven't have read any of CRZ's, books, then what the hell are you doing sitting reading this review? Get up and go buy/loan one.

My thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy. Really....thank you!
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