Cover Image: The Labyrinth of the Spirits

The Labyrinth of the Spirits

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Member Reviews

As someone with a background in fine art, who loves books (and a librarian for 30 years), loves mystery /detective writing and loves Spain and Spanish history, this was an absolute pleasure to read! His writing is so evocative, and after his other books left me feeling like I'd walked through a dream rather than read a book I was so exited to read it! His writing had a dark side to it, which I find similar to the dreamy landscapes of 'Pan's Labyrinth', but with a safer, less threatening feel. The final book's main character, Alicia, embarks on an epic journey of discovery which leads to some horrendous discoveries about things which happened decades earlier. Without spoiling the ending it's a strong ending to the series.
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Minister Valls has disappeared and Alicia Gris is tasked to find him with the help of policeman Vargas. She will have to go back to the Barcelona of her youth and get mixed with the Sampere Family and the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books to understand what has happened. I really enjoyed this book. I read the Shadow of the Wind a long time ago and really enjoyed it but never read Carlos Ruis Zafon other books. The writing is great and the story is convoluted but very entertaining. I couldn't put the book down.
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The final volume from the critically acclaimed Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle, in which the reader is transported once again into the mesmerizing world of intrigue, suspense and intriguing stories of beloved and new characters. 
The beautiful and enigmatic Alicia Gris is at the centre of this final volume, and her investigation leads to the uncovering of some of Spain’s higher echelons darkest secrets. We meet her first as a young girl, orphaned during the Spanish Civil War and saved by Fermin de Torres who appears in previous novels. From that fateful night, their paths split and Alicia is thrown into the world of the Spanish secret police, working as one of their most successful undercover investigators.
As with all of the cycle’s novels, a very special book lies at the heart of the tale – a rare masterpiece by Victor Mataix, hidden in the office of Valls whose disappearance Alicia is charged with investigating. This discovery leads to a tangled web of widespread corruption and uncompromising wickedness that Alicia must discover the truth of, whilst also discovering some of the truth behind her own life.
The first half of this book is as charged and enthralling as Zafón’s previous books, with an added pinch of femme fatale and dark, action-filled noir. Alicia’s past and the current case are full of intrigue and mystery that lends itself to a nail-biting thriller, whilst still reveling in the lush language and gothic setting that the cycle celebrates. I did find, however, that the plot seems to unravel slightly as you read on, losing some of the pace and tautness that are present at the start. Alicia is also remarkable character, but I do think Zafón as done her a disservice by always portraying her as an object of desire. There are hidden depths that aren’t explored and it begins to become tiresome reading yet another paragraph on how another man desires her. This is also highlighted when Alicia is compared to other women, Bea for example is upheld as an angelic figure with Alicia a demonic counterpoint, and the comparisons are usually based on physicality, leaning towards the stereotypical ‘male view’. It left me with the feeling that Zafón is far better at writing a man than a woman.
Saying this, the intricacy of the plot with various narratives intertwining is superb. Zafón has created yet another book within the story which you find yourself wishing was real, and built a terrifying mystery around it. There are many secrets that run under and over the main narrative, giving you the sense of the labyrinthine world that suits the title exceedingly well. You are led by all the clues, assumptions, dead-ends and answers that Alicia uncovers, as you journey with her through the maze of a dark and deadly history.
‘Stories have no beginning and no end, only doors through which one may enter them’ – The Labyrinth of the Spirits
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Oooh this was a tough book to rate. Let's look back at this series:

The Shadow of the Wind - beautifully written, a haunting tale of love, loss, regret and death against the backdrop of gothic, post-war Barcelona. Five stars and still one of my favourite books.
The Angel's Game - Zafon ramps up the 'gothic' and in my opinion lost a lot of what made the first one beautiful - the characters, the love. This is about David Martin's descent into madness, a lot more creepy, a lot more violent and I didn't really know what to make of it. Three stars.
The Prisoner of Heaven - This instalment focuses on Fermin, who is easily my favourite character of this series, and automatically made the book much better than its predecessor. It also placed the second book in a different light, which generally gave me more confidence about the direction of the series. Four stars.

This bring us to the present - the long-awaited fourth and final instalment of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There were a great many things I loved:
- Alicia was a fantastic character and I was really happy to see a woman taking centre stage
- The way that books are interwoven into the fabric of the novel
- Zafon's cinematic writing (he is actually also a screenwriter!)
- Little Julian Sempere who leapt off the page in an adorable way
- The many moments that were completely gripping and so tense I was yelling out loud!

BUT. This book is Just. Too. Long. Unfortunately that coloured my whole experience of the novel because by the end I was worn out and irritated. The final instalment from Julian's perspective was lovely in many ways, but it was quite a change of tone from what had been a very tense and violent novel, and ultimately it dragged on longer than it should have done. By that point, I just wanted to know what happened to everyone at the end, I didn't want a new story. The core elements of it were wonderful, but it could have been half the length.

Another thing that coloured my experience of the novel was the increase in explicit, graphic violence. Much like the second book, there were a lot of moments that were so dark and creepy I was sometimes afraid to continue! This was what drove the stark contrast between the bulk of the novel and the section at the end - the end was much like the first book, lyrical and beautiful, while the rest of the book was a lot of knives and revolvers, blood and gore. 

All together, 3.5 stars. I wanted so much to round it up to 4 because it was lovely to meet the Semperes again, and Shadow of the Wind remains one of my favourite books. Unfortunately, I had to round it down, because I just can't see why it had to be that long. This is not a bad novel, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. However, if you enjoyed the second and third books more than the first, you may well love this final chapter.

Trigger warning - this book contains frequent graphic violence including torture, murder and references to historic sexual abuse.

Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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Carlos Ruiz Zafron is one of my top favourite authors and i have been avidly looking forward to reading this, his latest and concluding, fourth novel in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, series. 
The Labyrinth of the Spirits, has been a roller coaster of a read and i have relished every single page, often going back and re-reading sections, because of the beauty in the writing and the descriptions of places and people.
All the well-loved characters from the previous books are here, and the story also introduces us to a new one,  Alicia Gris, a young woman with past connections to Fermin and Issac, and who is assigned to find Mauricio Valls, the Minister of Culture and previous Governor of Montjuic Prison: a place of torture and death.
Alicia has a deep wound both physically and emotionally, that she received as a child during the Spanish Civil War, but this does not stop her determination in finding and seeking justice, for those who suffered from the regime.
Carlos Ruiz Zafron has carefully tied up all the loose ends and completed a worthy and memorable masterpiece. This is a book that i will be reading again very soon and i can thoroughly recommend the entire series.
. #TheLabyrinthOfTheSpirits #NetGalley
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Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Not my usual genre but will be on the lookout for more of the same.

Will recommend the author to friends and family, and eagerly await more material
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This book was a bit of a slog for me, and I fully admit that it may have just been me, but it was hard work. I've read other books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and although they're all meant to stand alone and be entrances to the labyrinth you'd be disappointed if you read this one first before all of the others, so that doesn't entirely hold true in this instance. I will say that for me personally at times I felt it was very self gratuitous and therefore a little laborious to read. 

But don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, I'm glad a persevered. The last 40% of the book was by far better than the first 60% of the book. I love the characters, as I have always done, and they become more three dimensional each time you visit them. The descriptions are fantastic (but also because they are so detailed they also do make it a bit heavy in places).

I'm not sure why but for some reason I guessed most of the "twists" even before they even were hinted at, I just had a gut feeling. 

Regardless, I think if anyone has read any of the other books they'll still really enjoy reading this, and they should read it, it's a very fitting end to a great series.
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I loved everything about this book. I read the other three in the series and I am so glad that there was a fourth. I felt like I was reacquainting myself with friends when I was reading about characters that had also been in the previous books. The story had me captivated the whole way through. There is so much to the plot that I feel that I will read again to make sure I have not missed anything. The whole story is told beautifully and every piece of the plot ties up really well. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley for my copy.
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What a beautifully written book. I loved every second. In translated texts I find that much credit has to go to the translator. Which is not taking away from the author but is an added element. I have read translated books before that have had a really engaging storyline but with a slight absence due, I believe, to nuances in the different languages. This book flows, both in plot and lyrically. A definite recommendation.
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A brilliant book, which even though very long is never a boring read at all. I have read others in this series and this book brings the series to a dramatic and conclusive end. I enjoyed getting drawn into the wonderful stories of  the Cemetery of Lost Books again and there were plenty of reminders of events from the days of the Civil War which is where we are introduced to one of the main characters in the book Alicia Gris. There is every event in this book from murder right through to a tragic love story and everything in between.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone but especially those who enjoy being drawn into a magnificent world that we can only imagine exists. 

Many thanks to both NetGalley and the publishers for the chance of receiving an advance copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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I’ve read and loved every book written by Zafón, but It’s a long time since I read the first three books in this series and I was a little apprehensive when I started this book. I had a quick look online to remind myself who was who and what was what! However, as usual, he doesn’t disappoint, I absolutely adored this book. I loved the atmosphere, the multiple narrators, and of course the beautiful crafting/translating of each sentence. The post modern ending is enough to send you cross-eyed too! It’s a big commitment of time to read this book but it’s impossible to overstate how worth that investment this book is. I felt rather emotional when I finished it!
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This book forms an epic end to an epic series.
All the well-known and well-loved characters are there, the Sempere family, Fermin, their various neighbours, and David Martin, Julian Carax, and a new author Victort Mataix.
There is also a policeman Hendaya, who subscribes to the Fumero school of policing.

A new strong female, who is the driving force of this book, orphan Alicia Gris was horrifically injured in the Civil War, and her life was saved by Fermin, and Isaac. 
She now works for the mysterious Leandro, in a grey area outside the law, and is investigating the disappearance of Mauricio Valls, who was the governor of Montjuic Prison, and featured in previous books.

Needless to say, she finds a book that leads her from Madrid to Barcelona, and as her investigation continues, her path crosses that of familiar characters, and we find out more about them and their relationships, as well as introducing some engaging and tragic new characters.

This is a truly labyrinthine Gothic tale of murder, kidnapping, betrayal, mistaken identity, love, friendship,  that finally answers most of the questions raised by the previous books.
It also leaves some stories that are still worth telling, so maybe…..

I would give this more than five stars if I could, and recommend it to anyone who loves a compelling, addictive read, ……………………..  but, please read the other three books first!

Thankyou to Netgalley, and Orion Publishing Group for the opportunity to read this book.
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I feel like all my favourite childhood authors are bringing out new books this year... and I couldn't be happier! Another gorgeous atmospheric read from Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
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David Sempere and his family, secrets and a bookshop....with Daniel and his deep  thoughts of revenge for what had happened to Isabella, his mother. 

His friend , Fermin is so disjointed in how he speaks and jumps around from subject to subject, he is a comedian and philosopher. Then there’s the resolute Alicia all connected to each other and the Sempere family.

 There is a clear love of books and the absolute joy of reading is important in this one of Zafon's quartet of novels. So is the act of writing, to document the fascist regime of Franco and it’s barbarity and sheer greed.

This darkness in Barcelona starts to fade  with Franco's death, and Spain begins to recover. This is a spellbinding tale telling of the sheer emotions during a miserable and frightening part of Spain’s history and giving a human touch to the heartbreak and fear of that time. I will be thinking about this novel for some time....I can thoroughly recommend it.

I would like to thank the Author/the Publishers/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review
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I haven't read any of the previous stories and was completely lost with this one. I think this is the reason I found the story so confusing. I had no idea what was going on. It was a very long book which didn't help.
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In many respects Zafon's writing and narrative style remind me of Alexander Dumas and I wonder if he was influenced by him - there are certainly references to his work in this book. Both create fictions of astounding complexity with a whole plethora of vividly described characters and a storyline that has many peaks and toughs. For the most part I really enjoyed this book. It brought together story lines from the previous books in the series whist also introducing a new, very dark storyline. It is a times told with an ironic humour and at other times creates a palpable chill. It can be difficult to keep a hold on the different aspects of the storyline amidst such a densely descriptive tale. My greatest criticism is that there is too much detail which left me feeling like I was wading through treacle. I feel the book could be a good 200 pages shorter than its 816 page length. Zafon does draw all his threads together with great aplomb at the end of the book and as my rating shows I did think it was a work well worth the reading
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This is the long awaited last the Cemetary of Fogotten Books series. It was everything I wished for. Beautiful writing as always and a fascinating story. The books brings together the previous  three and binds them.
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I feel like my review may seem a little unfair as I do feel that in order to get the most out of this book you needed to have read the full series. I have read the first and enjoyed it but definitely needed to have  read the other two as well. Neverless very well written , complex and beautifully woven to wrap you in a world thats draws you in. Im going back to find my first book and will be reading them in the right way.
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Set against the backdrop of Franco's Spain, this sprawling epic entwines the vagaries of civil war and fascism with the secrets of a family caught up in things far bigger than them, whilst also sending spiralling tendrils of far reaching relationships, secrets, and a deep and abiding love for books throughout Barcelona during a period of about fifty years.
I'd not read any of the authors work before, although I was aware of the critical praise he'd received, and I was happy to learn that it is definitely warranted. 
A good books wraps itself around you, each sentence is as important as the last and here is where the author shines. He creates webs of words that entrap the reader and, much like the mysterious Alicia, send shivers down the spine. 
Never have I wanted to know more but feared knowing the secrets that are uncovered would also be my own undoing. It is not often that I feel my own muscles clench and release tension whilst reading, a supposedly relaxing past time. 
This is one part of an overarching world, and I feel like the characters that were only touched upon are explored at length in other books within the series. For some, the sense of mystery and coming upon a story from its midpoint might be off-putting, but it certainly evokes the intoxicating and shrouded feel of secrets, secrets, secrets, something that crops up many times in the book - cleverly outlining the plague of fascism (which relies entirely upon   lies and machinations) whilst intertwining the more common place mysteries that every family in such a time would have hoarded. 
I come away from this book reeling, desperately wanting more, but a little afraid of what I might find should I dip my toes in again - exactly how one is supposed to feel. 
Highly recommended. Although I suggest reading at least the Wikipedia page on Franco and fascist Spain so one is aware of the backdrop.
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The gothic universe created in The Shadow of the Wind, and the following alleyways forged in the sequels culminate in this finale, where all the threads connect to illuminate the horrors, secrets, and terrors of the harrowing and heartbreaking years of the Spanish Civil War and Franco's dictatorship that overturned democratic rule, aided and abetted by the Catholic Church. I loved The Shadow of the Wind and the universe it established with The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, but the following two books, I was disappointed in, I liked them but they fell far short when it came to emulating the brilliance of the first. Mostly, I loved this, it's atmospheric with its beautiful prose, Zafon expertly constructs the labyrinth of secrets, the magic of books, with its intrigue, friendship, love and family. However, if I am to be honest, there is an unevenness to the narrative, and the last part of the book in my eyes is the weakest. We are introduced to the seductive and enigmatic 29 year old Alicia Gris, losing her parents in the relentless bombing of Barcelona in 1938 by the fascists, left with injuries and pain that is to affect her mobility for life. For over a decade, Alicia has worked for Leandro and the political police in Madrid. She wants out, but has to take on one last assignment, find Culture Minister, Mauricio Valls, who has disappeared, along with his driver, presumed kidnapped by enemies.

Valls was the governor of Montjuic prison, where a number of writers were imprisoned, including David Martin and Victor Mataix, the writer of The Labyrinth of the Spirits, a take on Alice in Wonderland for his daughter, but where the heroine, Ariadna, descends into Barcelona's underworld to encounter horror after horror, imagined out of Spain's actual realities of that period. Torture and murder were the norm in the prison, and strangely, Valls had a copy of an edition of Mataix's banned novel which he was perusing. Alicia cottons on that her assignment is not what it purports to be, and she, along with others face deadly dangers by those who have a vested interest in ensuring the dark deeds, secrets and corruption of the fascist regime remain buried. Spain, Barcelona, The City of the Damned, steeped in the blood letting, with its proliferation of secret police, the widespread fear of the likes of Major Fumero and the good looking but monstrous Hendaya, is a place where lies and fiction have the greatest agency, and the truth is to be doubted and ruthlessly suppressed.

The Sempere family with its secrets and bookshop return, with Daniel harbouring bitter consuming thoughts of revenge for what happened to Isabella, his mother. Fermin, comic, saviour and philospher, and the unwavering and resolute Alicia were my favourite characters, both connected to each other and the Semperes. The love of books, the joys of reading are central to Zafon's quartet of novels, as indeed is writing, the need to throw light on the darkest of shadows of Franco's fascist regime with his inner cabal and acolytes, defined by their kleptocracy, butchery, corruption, murdering en masse with impunity, and their avarice. The gloom of Barcelona begins to lift with Franco's death, and chinks of light begin to filter through as slow faltering steps take place as Spain begins to move on from its nightmarish history. Overall, this is a bewitching and beguiling storytelling documenting the unbearable, emotionally heartbreaking inhumanity of Spain's fascist past which I must recommend highly, despite its imperfections. Many thanks to Orion for an ARC.
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