Cover Image: The Labyrinth of the Spirits

The Labyrinth of the Spirits

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Member Reviews

Opening this book and starting to read was like coming home. I relaxed, and missed my train stop- I was in the hands of a master story teller.
The language, even in translation, is inspirational and atmospheric, painting a magical world full of stories within stories.
I read ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ and ‘The Angel’s Game’  many years ago, and loved them, so was excited to have the opportunity to read Ruiz Zafon’s latest work. I was being pulled back into a place that I was happy to revisit. Although I haven’t read ‘The Prisoner of Heaven’ I didn’t feel that affected my pleasure in this novel. The quality of writing is exquisite. The story, as you may expect is full of twists, turns and complications but ultimately ties up loose ends and previously unanswered questions. Yes, it is long, but when a book is well written you want to hold onto it for as long as possible.
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Another excellent book from Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The several threads of the story work really well together blending the well-known and loved characters from his previous books into a book it's difficult to put down
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Thanks to NetGalley and to Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Publishing Group) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I enthusiastically and freely chose to review. 
I read the first two novels of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books series years back, in Spanish. I have recommended The Shadow of the Wind to anybody who would bother to listen to me (probably multiple times, sorry) and was enthralled by the complex tale of creation and mental unravelling span by The Angel’s Game. In the maelstrom of the last few years, somehow I lost track of the series and missed the publication of The Prisoner of Heaven (although I have been trying to locate a copy since I started reading this volume), but when I saw the last novel in the series was being published in English and offered on NetGalley, I knew it was my chance to catch up. As I also do translations and had read two of the novels in their original Spanish version, I had the added interest of scrutinising what the translation into English would look like. Well, I must say I thought it was superb, in case I forget to mention it later. Lucia Graves manages to capture the style of the author, the complexity and beauty of his language, and translates the local peculiarities of the dialogue, helping readers feel the joy and the intoxicating and magical experience of reading the original. Hats off!
If you’ve read up to this point, you’ll likely have guessed that I loved this novel. To get it out of the way, I’ll clarify that I think it can be read by itself, or as a starting point to a reader’s visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and although perhaps somebody who starts by reading this book will feel s/he knows already the whole story, I suspect they’ll feel curious and intrigued and will want to learn the full details of the stories that come to fruition here (this is my case as well). Here, the author of the story inside the book, Julián, (yes, the story is full of books and writers) explains how the series works better than I can:
The way I dreamed of it, the narrative would be divided into four interconnected volumes that would work like entrance doors into a labyrinth of stories. As the reader advanced into its pages, he would feel that the story was piecing itself together like a game of Russian dolls in which each plot and each character led to the next, and that, in turn, to yet another, and so on and so forth. The saga would contain villains and heroes, and a thousand tunnels through which the reader would be able to explore a kaleidoscopic plot resembling that mirage of perspectives I’d discovered with my father in the heart of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.
This is a long novel, and a complex one, although not one difficult to read or follow (I don’t think). As the quoted paragraph says, there are many stories here, and many memorable characters, some dead, some alive, and some… (among them, Alicia Gris, femme-fatale, spy, little girl, seductress, avenging angel, long-suffering survivor of a terrible war; Daniel Sampere, bookshop owner extraordinaire searching for answers; Fermín Romero de Torres, whimsical, fun, full of life and common-sense, witty, heroic, down-to-earth;  Julián Sempere, the stand-in for the author and heir to a long tradition; Isabella, a mysterious figure much of the action revolves around; authors David Martín, Julian Carax, Víctor Mataix; the fabulous Vargas, a hard-working an old-fashioned honest policeman with some secrets of his own; the complex Leandro; the horrifying Hendaya; the intriguing Rovira…). The story moves back and forth in time, from the time of the Civil War in Spain (1938) to its aftermath during the Franco regime, and into 1992. We visit Madrid, Paris —however briefly— although the main setting, and the main character, is Barcelona, in all its glory and horror. 
In the darkest corner of her heart, Barcelona, mother of labyrinths, holds of mesh of narrow streets knotted together to form a reef of present and future ruins. 
I kept thinking what genre one would fit this book into. Amazon has it listed in the categories of literary fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries. All true, I guess. There are secrets, mysteries, action, revenge, intrigues, crimes, murders, torture… The novel reminds me, in some ways, of the big adventures and narratives of old, novels by Victor Hugo (whose pen, possibly?, makes an appearance in the novel), Jules Verne, the Dumas (father and son), with its sprawling narrative, its wondrous descriptions of people and events, its historical background (the Spanish Civil War and the postwar years, accurately reflected through a fantasy lens), and even its gothic setting (we have mysterious mansions, dungeons, cells, castles, underground passages, true labyrinths…). This book bears homage to literature, to books, to authors, to the power of imagination, and to the magic of reading. 
The book talks about books and writing and contains plenty of advice on writing, some of it contradictory, and there are many different types of writers contained in its pages. It is metafictional at its best, and I was not surprised when I read that the author also composes music. There are variations on a theme in evidence (stories are told and retold: sometimes different versions, sometimes from different perspectives, and in different formats). There is plenty of showing, there is telling from direct witnesses, or third-hand, there are documents that bring us missing pieces from the pens of those who are no longer able to tell their own stories, and everybody gets a chance to tell his or her own story, be it in the first person or the third, be it directly or through a narrator. The author has explained that he writes his novels in a similar way to how movies are conceived and designed, and that is evident when one reads the story, as it is impossible not to visualise it. Carlos Ruíz Zafón professes his admiration for Orson Welles and that comes across loud and clear in this book. But, however much he loves movies, he believes books can conjure up worlds that no filmmaker would be able to bring to life, and that is his stated reason for not selling the rights for the film adaptation of the series. Part of me would like to watch it, but I am convinced I’d be disappointed, so incredible is the world the author has built. 
I have mentioned the style of writing when I talked about the translation and I have shared some quotes. I kept highlighting and highlighting text while I was reading it and I found it very difficult to select some to share, but I hope the few fragments I have included will pique your curiosity and make you check a sample if you are not sure if you would like it (you would!). One of the tips on writing contained in the book highlights the importance of the way the story is written, above and beyond the plot, but in this case, the two mix perfectly.
I have mentioned some of the themes, the historical background, and the mystery elements included in the story, with some gore and violent scenes, but there are plenty of magical, lighter, and funny moments as well, and I wanted to share a couple of sentences from Isabella’s notebook that I particularly enjoyed, to illustrate the sense of humour (sometimes a bit dark) also present:
We were three sisters, but my father used to say he had two daughters and one mule.
I didn’t like playing with the other girls: my specialty was decapitating dolls with a catapult.
I’m not sure what else I can tell you to try and convince you to read this book. I am from Barcelona and love the city, even if some of the places mentioned in the novel no longer exist (or not in their original form). You could use the book as a guide for a visit (and I know there were tours visiting some of the streets and settings of The Shadow of the Wind), or you could lose yourself in the labyrinth of your imagination. You could imagine the movie, cast the characters, or put yourself in their place (I’d happily be Alicia Gris, pain and all). If you need to live some adventures and take a break from your life, go on, enter the labyrinth and visit the cemetery of the forgotten books. You might never want to find the way out. I am rearing for another visit soon.
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I am a fan of The Shadow Of The Wind, and the rest of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This is the fourth book in the series. You don't need to read them in order, but at least I'd recommend reading The Shadow Of The Wind. It's a delight to read Zafon and to go back to the world he builds in Barcelona. 'The Labyrinth of the Spirits' did not disappoint at all. 

When I pick up these books, I feel like I'm reading literature. I devour the writing, read it slowly and enjoy every sentence. Zafon's books are very complex, he builds layer over layer. They are dark, but delicious. The way he builds his atmosphere is remarkable. Every time, I feel like I'm in Barcelona living in that world. His characters are very vivid and moving. This book I can say, was the darkest of all, even a bit violent. 

I can only wish I spoke Spanish, so I could read this in the original language. 

If you're a literary fiction lover, please don't miss on Carlos Ruiz Zafon and these beautiful books.
Thanks a lot to the publisher and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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The Labyrinth of the Spirits continues and concludes the 4 part: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series based in Spain during and after the Spanish Civil War and its repercussions centring around the Sempere family and their second hand bookshop in Barcelona.   The first thing I did after reading this gripping conclusion, was start at the beginning of the first book again! As well as its own story this book fills in so many of the questions I’ve had buzzing around my head for so long. Loose ends are tied; explanations and details given. In itself it’s another mastery of gothic suspension, horror, suffering and the mindblowing cruelty man can inflict on others but at the same time a celebration of the strength of the human spirit and how people can overcome great tragedy, misfortune  and deliberate harm.   

We centre on Daniel, his wife Bea, their son Julian with Daniel’s old irrepressible companion, Fermin and learn how the latter came to be in Barcelona narrowly escaping death in the process. The ‘current’ time is after the Civil War when Franco’s regime is at its height. Corrupt Ministers abound and we focus on one, Minister Valls whose sudden disappearance sparks an investigation by the fascinating Alicia Gris, another victim of the past Civil War.   We learn hidden secrets even within the Sempere  family.
The horrors of ordinary citizens being arrested en masse, their torture, imprisonment and murder in Montjuic Castle under the Franco regime make for sobering reading and Carlos R-Z brings back the group of creative writers and journalists mentioned in the previous instalments and we learn their fates.  Balanced against this is the humanity and warmth of the Sempere family, their friends and acquaintances and of course the eloquent humour of the oversexed, irreverent lover of Sugus, literature and women, Fermin! (Love him!)

You experience the author’s total passion for literature, his need to protect the creative process, freedom of speech and his belief in writing as an art form with the ability to transform people, lives and regimes. Also his distress that so many authors and ‘word artists’ were imprisoned and killed by a regime whose only use for the written word was for propaganda, lies, political diatribes and false biographies. He speaks for the ‘unknown voices’, many of who vanished at this time. That’s not to say this is a stolid, heavy argument in the story – the story itself is utterly gripping, suspenseful, violent and shocking  - but with this additional, totally moving emotion behind it. Superb.
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Having read 'The Shadow of the Wind', I was eager to return to Zafón's post-civil-war Barcelona, and 'The Labyrinth of the Spirits' does not disappoint.

The language is a literary feast: rich, complex and multi-layered, but topped with a more bitter sauce. The violence is more frequent and more graphic, so that reading this book is, at times, the literary equivalent of staring at a Hieronymous Bosch painting: a fantastical picture of hell and madness, populated with strange and evil creatures from your worst nightmares. The story is breathtakingly told, and a cause of a certain amount of sleep deprivation: both while reading it, when it was impossible to put down, and afterwards, as the story lingered long, swirling around in my mind.

I don't speak Spanish, so can't compare the translation to the original, but the beautiful linguistic flow would lead me to believe it is a highly skilled rendition of a masterful text.

Although the book states that the Cemetery of Forgotten books cycle can be read in any order, I would recommend reading at least 'The Shadow of the Wind' before turning to this one, as it helps give 'The Labyrinth of the Spirits' more context. I didn't feel I had missed out by not reading the other two books in the cycle, but this has definitely prompted me to return to them.
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I must admit to having struggled with this.  It's been a long time since I read The Shadow of the Wind, and the beginning of the book certainly felt like I should have remembered the details.  The book is also dauntingly long - even for a reviewing reader! - and when I struggled to get into it, I actually had to give up because life's too short.

What I read was well-written, but it didn't grab me enough to wade through it all.  I like to think I'll give it another go with more success.

Thanks for NetGalley for the ARC
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Definite 5* from me!!

The last book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series and i was not disappointed at all!!

Full of this gothic atmosphere i love in general and more specifically in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's books! 

In this installment everything is put into place and all questions will be answered! Very well written, as always as well as very well translated!

Best final book in the series that could have been written!
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This is the final book of the four book series that started with The Shadow of the wind.  It is the denouement of all the mysteries left unexplained in the previous three.  The sense of evil and darkness that clouds previous books has gone and now seems to be a metaphor for the evils perpetrated during the Civil War.  Alicia is the main protagonist, an agent of the political police, she is tasked to find a missing government minister.  She is a damaged beauty, with painful injuries she suffered a a child in the bombing of Barcelona.  As the plot evolves more and more heinous crimes committed in the war emerge.  The action is bloody, fast moving and utterly compelling.  
Only a small negative, in the early part of the book some of the dialogue in the translation sounds slightly too modern to be credible 1950s dialogue,.
No one who has read Zafon will want to miss this one.
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A stunner of a book. Beautiful writing, wonderfully translated. I’ve loved every one of the series and this rounds it off nicely. The conclusion is very cleverly thought out and masterfully done. I’m now returning to Shadow of the Wind to re-read the lot in one go. A complete joy.

I now wish I hadn’t been so free and easy with some of my previous 5 stars as this blows most of them way out of the water.
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In The Labyrinth of the Spirits Carlos Ruiz Zafón brings the reader full circle, completing the story which began with The Shadow of the Wind.  I highly recommend first reading that initial novel, along with The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven as Ruiz Zafón has here constructed an intricately woven narrative which draws together the lives of the many characters whose stories were told both within the words and between the lines of those previous books.

As with the other books in this series, we travel a Barcelona that is full of Gothic-noir mystery.  The streets swirl with smoke, shadows and words unsaid, and buildings loom as ominously as the threat of the political police.

The story returns to the fate of bookseller and amateur investigator of literary mysteries, Daniel Sempere and his family, but the real shining stars in this novel are Alicia, Fermin and Vargas.  Each brings something unique to the narrative to liven, lighten or illuminate the darker depths.  Personally, I have always found poor Daniel a bit too brooding and serious.  In contrast, despite troubled histories and pained presents, Alicia, Fermin and Vargas face each trial with straightened spines and witty, sardonic banter.  My kind of people!

The narrative is a non-linear affair, with the story told in flashbacks and Inception-style stories-within-stories.  In fact the whole series is a love song to books, literature and reading.  The author describes the act of reading as only a true bibliophile can, encompassing every sense:  literature is perfume, it is chocolate, it is a musical symphony.  The love of books and stories pours from the pages and the book-loving reader is warmed and uplifted in turn.

The first half of the novel is a deliberate meander through misty, rainy, shadowed Spanish streets, building up a slow-burning tension as the edges and corners of the huge, complex puzzle gradually begin to unfurl.  In contrast the second half of the book gathers pace imperceptibly as the torture and violence increases, until by the climax we are pounding the stormy streets at breathless speed, running on caffeine and alcohol fumes and no sleep at all, as the literary mystery explodes into a frenetic thriller and plot twists leap out from the shadows as we speed past.  Finally the ending slows again and allows the reader time for breath and thought, as the final pieces of the story are confidently slotted into place and the full picture revealed at last.

Anyone who has read any of Ruiz Zafón’s novels will already know that this writing is exquisite and precise, whether he is painting an almost-supernaturally spooky setting like a cemetery or abandoned mansion, or perfectly skewering the everyday error of overordering food when in an expansive mood.  This skill draws the reader fully into the world created, and I should warn that this makes the scenes of sadistic torture particularly vivid and disturbing.  In order to see the light, and the subtle shades of grey, we need the dark for contrast, but I appreciate that this may not be an easy read for the squeamish!

As I am sure you can tell from my purplish prose (oh for a Carax of my own to correct me!) I absolutely loved this novel, and would personally say that it is the best of the whole series.  I cannot recommend this highly enough, but will again add that you must read the whole series in order to make full sense of the individual stories!

Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
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I remember that I absolutely loved Zafon's first Cemetery Of Forgotten Books, Shadow Of The Wind, when I read it way back in 2011 (according to my Goodreads!). That was before I began blogging and, as a consequence, reviewing everything I read and I have found that if I don't write my own thoughts about a book, I struggle to recall much about it later on. Despite my enthusiasm for Shadow Of The Wind, I got bookishly distracted and so haven't yet read either of the middle two instalments. However, I spotted Labyrinth Of The Spirits on NetGalley last month and excitedly requested it, especially because I spotted Zafon's explaining that this series is not necessarily intended to be read in strict order. Instead readers can approach the cycle like a labyrinth, choosing their entrances and exits at random. Now that's my kind of series! Regular Literary Flits visitors will know that I am almost incapable of reading a series in order and here I am actually encouraged not to!

The Labyrinth Of The Spirits is a gorgeously immersive novel and, having finished it on Saturday, I am now experiencing a serious book hangover. I want to be back in Zafon's 1960s Barcelona sipping a cortado in a tiny cafe or rushing through dark alleyways in pursuit of Alicia and Vargas. Alicia is a brilliant character, a darkly flawed borderline-alcoholic with an amazing brain and I loved her wardrobe too. Labyrinth is a far longer novel than I usually read so Zafon has plenty of space to develop his superb characters and to place them in deliciously evocative locations. The story is violent, frequently disturbingly gruesome and mind-bogglingly convoluted - and I absolutely loved every page. I cannot begin to imagine how Zafon kept all those narrative threads straight in his own mind. This book is truly a masterpiece. Now I MUST get a hold of those middle two novels and I think I might treat myself to a Shadow reread as well.
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'The Labyrinth of the Spirits' is the fourth and final installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. I don't mind telling the world that this happens to be one of my favourite series of all time, and Carlos Ruiz Zafon is very much criminally underrated in my view. Having loved the previous three books, I was hoping to be completely blown away once again by Zafon's superb storytelling ability. It's safe to say he didn't let me down, and this lived up to my incredibly high expectations. One thing I would say is that although this is stated as working as a standalone, I feel you will be landing in the middle of the action with no clue what is happening, and you'll miss out on the all important background information from previous books which I feel is required in order to completely immerse yourself in the story.

At 832 pages in length, this is a rather daunting prospect when you first open the book. I thought to myself that so long as the writing is as exquisite as ever, I would have no problem with the page count. As always, Zafon is expert at grabbing the readers attention and pulling them into the story, and because of this it actually felt a lot shorter than it actually was. It's a complex and intricate novel that requires your full attention, but boy are you rewarded highly! Essentially, this is a story about the insufferable and traumatic barbarism of Spain's fascist past. An enchanting and haunting tale written by one of the most talented writers of the fiction world. If you're a fantasy/historical/mystery fan this is well worth your time. I am really sad that this is the end of the series, but it was certainly a fitting conclusion. Unmissable. I look forward to Zafon publishing more of his work.

Many thanks to W&N for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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Although it states you can read this book as a standalone, I found it difficult to get into the story and empathise with the characters. The sheer length of the book demands that you feel something for the characters and I couldn't. The language and imagery are noteworthy, but it isn't enough if you can't grasp the plot and what motivates the characters.

So this is one I didn't finish. If you're familiar with the author's other books you should enjoy reacquainting with some characters and the storyline and style may appeal. It's not a story you can dip into you need to be a fantasy fan, and the fantasy created by the author needs to be one you can relate to, I wasn't able to.

I received a copy of this book from W&N Orion Publishing Group in return for an honest review.
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"[Any] story is an endless labyrinth of words, images, and spirits, conjured up to show us the invisible truth about ourselves."

At first glance, an 800+ page book is a daunting ask, even when you're a big fan of the writer's work. But this work is (often) beautifully written, as one would expect from Carlos Ruíz Zafon. I say "often" because the work is not perfect. I'm still not convinced it had to be this long, but the tale's strands are all very neatly tied and the narrative really speeds along once it hits its stride - around 80 percent of the way in. That's not to say it's turgid before that - it could have just done with a few edits - it's difficult to maintain the sense of suspense required with a book of this length. Perhaps I wouldn't feel that way if I hadn't read the first book "The Shadow of the Wind", which stands as one of my all-time favourites. 

While a note at the opening of the book reads:

"Although each work within the cycle [that is, the series of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books] presents an independent, self-contained tale, they are all connected..."

I'm not sure it's true to say that the novels can be read independently. As an enthusiastic reader of each of the books in this series - I'm not sure I'd have had any idea what was going on if I had not read the earlier books. I also wished I had re-read the earlier books before starting this one as a reminder of where things were last left. 

More overtly political than its predecessors, this book contains more "reality" and less of a magical quality than the earlier volumes. To that end, it's also worth saying that the reader will require a rudimentary understanding of the Spanish Civil War before embarking on the book. 

This book's lead character is Alicia Gris and very much our Alice in Barcelona's shadowy Wonderland. What a joy that in this series we finally have a female heroine at the helm to assist solve the ongoing mysteries relating to authors of the past and their families. I felt it was a shame though that she and other female characters were so sexualised - nearly all comments about Alicia from other characters were about the lust she inspires through her looks - with other characters assuming she is either a "whore" or a "luxury courtesan". To that end, each of the women in the book it seems are either virtuous madonnas or alluring whores. I would have preferred more emphasis on Alicia's wits and less on her, well...stockings.

Fermín (to be forgiven - possibly - for his era-appropriate misogyny) however is still one of the great literary treasures and he outdoes himself in this book. I also really enjoyed the introduction of Julián Sempere, clearly Ruíz Zafon's autobiographical foil.

Ultimately, we are reminded that authors carry "the hope every maker of tales carries within: that readers will open their hearts to these little creatures made of ink and paper, and give them a part of themselves so they can be immortal, even if only for a few minutes" and that is certainly true here. Only in this case, several hours. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, Orion Publishing, W&N and the author for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I received my review copy of this book with joy and trepidation. Joy because the first book in this cycle, The Shadow of the Wind, remains one of my favourite books. Trepidation because this fourth book has been on the cards for a long time and the second and third books did not work as well as the first for me.  Once again we are mainly in Barcelona and it features some of the characters from the earlier books as well as books mentioned in the other books! In the main it is set in the same era as the other books too, the era of the Civil War and Franco's rule.

The start was evocative and very much in keeping with the earlier books. The Civil war rages and it's Fermin's story (& an unwelcome but unsurprising return for Fumero). Fermin has always been a favourite character of mine and to have some background sketched in was good. It also managed to introduce a new favourite character Alicia (I am fairly sure she did not appear in the earlier books though it is a while since I read them). 

The language is so good, richly descriptive and poetic. It conjures up rich images, dark and gothic at times. The interweaving of the previous books is very clever.  I often understood that I'd seen this part of the story before but from a different angle. To do that over 4 books does suggest the writing is of a very high order. There are time shifts but they are well enough signposted.

I enjoyed meeting old friends again and discovering some new ones. As I said Alicia particularly is a great character and her co-worker Vargas was very good too. Even the more minor characters are often very rich. Zafon manages to bring some light into very dark places via some nice humour from Fermin and others.  The book overall is both wide ranging and quite long. Some may find this an issue however it is not a book to be rushed. That said I was left with a slight feeling that the book could have ended earlier and just as satisfactorily. 

I'm fairly sure that I recall the author saying in the first book in this cycle that they could be read in any order. For me that applied to the first three and I have reread them in differing orders. However I do think this last book should probably be treated as just that - the last book. Things are revealed in this that I'm fairly sure would change the impact of any of the other ones if read before them.

The Shadow of the Wind is without doubt my favourite of the cycle however this would definitely be the second. I think fans of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle should find it satisfying. Maybe not quite a 5 but 4.5 happily.
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I’m afraid I couldn’t get into this one but perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood as I am a big fan of Zafon’s books. Don’t let me put you off. I start again when I have less on my mind and am sure I will live the book as I have the others.
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How to explain why I love this author and, in particular, this series of wonderful, enchanting yet haunting books centred on the Cemetery of Forgotten Books? Is it the way we are immediately transported over several time periods to the intreguing cities of Barcelona and Madrid? Or is it how we become completely entrapped in the interlinked stories of our familiar characters (and a few new ones) - sucked down into an Alice in Wonderland like labyrinth of love, deceit, cruelty and hope?

Yes to all of the above but, most importantly, it is the beautiful language the author uses that gives a complete sense of people, places and atmosphere as he weaves the last book in the series which, by gradually pealing back the segments of the overall mysteries, opens the reader’s mind to the real truth of what happened to each character.

I laughed, I cried, I felt anguish for all the souls who were caught up in the Civil War and the aftermath of the totalitarian regime of Franco. If you cherish humanity read this book. As for me, I’m going back to start reading the series all over again - from the first word of the first book!
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To say that The Labyrinth of the Spirits is one of my most highly anticipated novels of the year doesn’t really begin to cover it.  I adored The Shadow of the Wind which to this day remains one of my favourite novels of all time, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this final instalment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.

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.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits reunites the reader with some old friends (and that is how it feels to me) as well as introducing some new characters into the mix.  Daniel now runs Sempere & Sons along with his wife, Bea, now that his father is less active in the management of the business.  Fermin, of course, is still present, and much the same as ever, doling out little seeds of wisdom (irrespective of whether these have been asked for), and generally being as cheeky as he feels as he can get away with.  I’m extremely fond of both Daniel and Fermin, and it was a pleasure to be reunited with them, and to see what they were up to two years on from The Prisoner of Heaven.

Whilst Daniel and Fermin feature in this novel, the main character is Alicia Gris.  Alicia was orphaned during the war, and still suffers from the effects of an injury sustained at that time.  Since then, she has been recruited into a role in a special unit of the police – one that seems to go unnamed throughout the novel.  This latest case sees her return to Barcelona in order to find Mauricio Valls, Minister for Culture and former head of Montjuic Prison.  Alicia's character is an interesting one.  I didn't find her as immediately likeable as Daniel and Fermin, but she grew on me as the novel progressed.  Bold and beautiful, she allows no one to get close to her, and hides behind a persona of femme fatale.  I loved her determination to get a job done, no matter how much pain her old injury causes her.  She is intelligent, and I loved her perseverance in getting to the bottom of this mystery even as things don't go to plan.   

The Labyrinth of the Spirits has a dark, gothic atmosphere, and this novel seemed to be more of a thriller than other novels in series, with the investigation into the disappearance of Valls uncovering a much broader and longer running conspiracy.  The storytelling is second to none, and whilst this is a long book, I read it relatively quickly, desperate to uncover the truth behind Valls’s disappearance.

One common theme running through the whole series is that of a love of books, stories and of reading, and The Labyrinth of the Spirits is no exception.  Here, the rare book in question is one by Victor Mataix, and is part of a series he wrote for his daughter, Ariadna, which features her as a heroine, facing up a series of horrors, fictionalised yet inspired by Spanish history.  Whilst this seems like an aside, it becomes clear that this book, and is author, Mataix, have a role to play in the story and in Alicia’s investigation.  It’s a dark and thrilling story, and if this novel perhaps contained more violence than the earlier novels, this is very much in keeping with the story as events come to a head.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits brings to a close an epic narrative, and I wouldn’t recommend reading this as a standalone novel.  I think that the whole series has been pitched as being a set of interconnected stories that can be read either as a series or individually, and in any order.  However, I think that because of the way in which this final instalment brings everything to a close, tying up all the loose ends from the earlier novels, that this should be read after The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven.   Additionally, The Shadow of the Wind has long been one of my favourite novels, and is one that I recommend to everyone. 

The Labyrinth of the Spirits will be published on 18 September by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.  Many thanks to the publisher for allowing me to read an early copy via Netgalley.
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A wonderful lyric finish to this spectacular series. Beautifully written, evocative and complex the characters and setting are slowly drawn together to produce a stunning and gripping conclusion.
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