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The Prisoner of Heaven
The Shadow of the Wind
Angel's Game

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz ZafonBook Cover of The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Once again, internationally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author Carlos Ruiz Zafón creates a rich, labyrinthine tale of love, literature, passion, and revenge, set in a dark, gothic Barcelona, in which the heroes of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game must contend with a nemesis that threatens to destroy them. Barcelona,1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermín Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city's dark past. His appearance plunges Fermín and Daniel into a dangerous adventure that will take them back to the 1940's and the dark early days of Franco's dictatorship. The terrifying events of that time launch them on a journey fraught with jealousy, suspicion, vengeance, and lies, a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives. Full of intrigue and emotion, The Prisoner of Heaven is a majestic novel in which the threads of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game converge under the spell of literature and bring us toward the enigma of the mystery hidden at the heart of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a collection of lost treasures known only to its few initiates and the very core of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's enchanting fictional world. Click here to read the full book review.


1. Describe the relationship between Daniel and Fermin. What ties these men together? What do we learn about these two friends and their lives as the story unfolds?
1. At the beginning of the novel, a mysterious stranger enters Sempere & Sons and purchases the store's rare copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. How does this classic French tale tie into The Prisoner of Heaven? If you have read both books, how are they similar? Who is The Prisoner of Heaven and how did he earn this name? Is his incarceration a form of pure damnation or is there a sublime grace to it as well?
1. The stranger inscribes the book with an enigmatic message: "For Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from among the dead and holds the key to the future." What key is this message referring to? How does this inscription drive the story and where does it lead the characters?
1. Daniel makes note of Fermin's stockpile of aphorisms, such as "A good repast is like a lass in bloom: not to appreciate it is the business of fools." Look for them throughout the novel, choose a few you especially like, and then share them with your reading group. How does Fermin come by his wisdom?
1. Why does Fermin tell Daniel that he has been protecting him, "From the truth Daniel . . . from the truth?" Why does Daniel—or anyone—need protection from truth? Does truth have the power to free Daniel or to imprison him in a psychological way?
1. Fermin reveals to Daniel that he has been imprisoned in Montjuïc Castle. What kind of conditions do he and the other prisoners there endure? Among the prisoners he meets is the writer David Martín. Why is Martín in prison? Why are writers and intellectuals among the first casualties of a dictatorship? Other inmates say that Martín is mad. Is he crazy or does he use madness to survive?
1. Ruiz Zafón interweaves past and present to tell the story of The Prisoner of Heaven. How does life in 1939 Barcelona compare to that of 1957? Describe the Barcelona that Ruiz Zafón creates. What kind of a place is it? How is the civil war still shaping the lives of its inhabitants two decades after it began?
1. What is David Martín's relationship with Mauricio Valls, the prison's governor? Compare and contrast the two men. What qualities would you ascribe to each? What happens to each of them and how are they both connected to Daniel?
1. Why does Fermin eventually go along with Martín's crazy escape scheme? What might have happened if he had not?
1. Fermin is rescued and nursed back to health by the invisible poor of Barcelona's shadow world. "There are times and places where not to be anyone is more honourable than someone," Ruiz Zafón writes. What is the meaning of his words and how does it relate to the "time and place" brought to life in the novel? Is it better to fight or to give in to what Daniel calls "the convenient cowardice of survivors"? What is sacrificed with each choice?
1. Daniel's friend, Professor Alburquerque, tells him, "Cities have no memory and they need someone like me, a sage with his feet on the ground, to keep it alive." Explain what he means. Why do cities have no memory? Why is it is easy to forget even the most devastating of events? What happens when we do forget? Would you consider Ruiz Zafón to be a memory keeper like the professor?
1. When Daniel discovers a letter from his wife's old suitor in her coat pocket, should he have read it? How is Bea's former fiancé tied into the mystery of both Daniel and Fermin's past?
1. Late in the novel, Daniel and Fermin visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. What does Daniel find there and how does he react to his discovery? What is this repository and why is it secret? Why did the prison governor, Valls, want to learn its whereabouts? How do places such as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books exist in a brutal and dangerous world like fascist Spain?
1. What do you think comes next for Daniel and Fermin?
1. In the novel's prologue, the author writes, "The Prisoner of Heaven is part of a cycle of novels set in the literary universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books of which The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game are the two first installments. Although each work within the cycle presents an independent, self-contained tale, they are all connected through characters and storylines, creating thematic and narrative links." If you have read the other two books, identify these links. How does reading this third installment shed new light on the characters and your understanding of the mysterious Cemetery of Forgotten Books?

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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafonBook Cover of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Natalie found this book to be a gorgeous mystery steep in history and romance, bu Tracy wasn't so keen on the literary style, however, it is an interesting concept. It is because we both saw the story unfold in different ways that this would be a great discussion book. The Shadow of the Wind is a coming-of-age tale of a young boy who, through the magic of a single book, finds a purpose greater than himself and a hero in a man he's never met. With the passion of García Márquez, the irony of Dickens, and the necromancy of Poe, Carlos Ruiz Zafón spins a web of intrigue so thick that it ensnares the reader from the very first line. The Shadow of the Wind is an ode to the art of reading, but it is also the perfect example of the all-encompassing power of a well-told story. Click here to read the full book review.


1. Julián Carax's and Daniel's lives follow very similar trajectories. Yet one ends in tragedy, the other in happiness. What similarities are there between the paths they take? What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid tragedy?
2. Nuria Monfort tells Daniel, "Julián once wrote that coincidences are the scars of fate. There are no coincidences, Daniel. We are the puppets of our unconscious." What does that mean? What does she refer to in her own experience and in Julián's life?
3. Nuria Monfort's dying words, meant for Julián, are, "There are worse prisons than words." What does she mean by this? What is she referring to?
4. There are many devil figures in the story --- Carax's Laín Coubert, Jacinta's Zacarias, Fermín's Fumero. How does evil manifest itself in each devil figure? What are the characteristics of the villains/devils?
5. Discuss the title of the novel. What is "The Shadow of the Wind"? Where does Zafón refer to it and what does he use the image to illustrate?
6. Zafón's female characters are often enigmatic, otherworldly angels full of power and mystery. Clara the blind white goddess ultimately becomes a fallen angel; Carax credits sweet Bea with saving his and Daniel's lives; Daniel's mother is actually an angel whose death renders her so ephemeral that Daniel can't even remember her face. Do you think Zafón paints his female characters differently than his male characters? What do the women represent in Daniel's life? What might the Freud loving Miquel Moliner say about Daniel's relationships with women?
7. Daniel says of The Shadow of the Wind, "As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within" (p. 7). Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind unfolds much the same way, with many characters contributing fragments of their own stories in the first person point of view. What does Zafón illustrate with this method of storytelling? What do the individual mini-autobiographies contribute to the tale?
8. The evil Fumero is the only son of a ridiculed father and a superficial, status-seeking mother. The troubled Julián is the bastard son of a love-starved musical mother and an amorous, amoral businessman, though he was raised by a cuckolded hatmaker. Do you think their personalities are products of nature or nurture? How are the sins of the fathers and mothers visited upon each of the characters?

These questions are provided by Reading Group Guides.

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Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz ZafonBook Cover of Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The whole of Barcelona stretched out at my feet and I wanted to believe that, when I opened those windows, its streets would whisper stories to me, secrets I could capture on paper and narrate to whomever cared to listen.... In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martín, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever existed—a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between his haunting book and the shadows that surround his home. Once again, Zafon takes us into a dark, gothic universe first seen in The Shadow of the Wind and creates a breathtaking adventure of intrigue, romance, and tragedy. Through a dizzingly constructed labyrinth of secrets, the magic of books, passion, and friendship blend into a masterful story. (From the publisher). Click here to read the full book review.


1. The novel begins with David’s recollection of the first time he tasted “the sweet poison of vanity” by writing for a living. How much of his career is fueled by vanity versus poverty? Why was it so difficult for him to heed Cristina’s warnings about selling out to greedy publishers?
2. Like Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s previous novel, The Angel’s Game is written in the first person. What does David reveal about his view of the world as he tells us his story? How might the novel have unfolded if it had been told from Andreas Corelli’s point of view?
3. Sempere influenced David’s life by giving him a copy of Great Expectations. Later returned to him by Corelli, the book still bore the bloody fingerprints of David’s father. How did David’s life resemble a Dickens novel? How was he affected by his parents’ history? How did books and booksellers save him? What is the most memorable book you received as a child?
4. Discuss the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, described especially vividly in chapter 20 (act one). What do the contents of the cemetery say about which books have long lives, and which ones are overlooked? What is required to honor the soul of a book, applying Sempere’s belief that a book absorbs the soul of its author and its readers?
5. What is the common thread in each of Corelli’s tactics for luring David? How did you interpret his "dream" of Chloé? What made David a vulnerable target?
6. What aspects of his identity does David have to leave behind when he becomes Ignatius B. Samson, author of City of the Damned (chapter 8, act one)? What does The Steps of Heaven say about who he wants to be and who Irene Sabino became?
7. How does Pedro Vidal justify his exploitation of David, stealing the woman he loves and capitalizing on David’s prowess as a writer? How did your opinion of Vidal shift throughout the novel? Does he redeem himself in chapter 22 (act three)? Describe someone whom you idolized early in your career who later proved to be untrustworthy.
8. In chapter 24 (act one), Corelli reveals his plan to David, describing religion as “a moral code that is expressed through legends, myths or any type of literary device.” Does this definition match your experience with religion? What do Lux Aeterna and Corelli’s project indicate about faith and the written word?
9. How did you react to the revelations about Ricardo Salvador at the end of chapter 14 (act three)? What had your theories been about Corelli’s network?
10. Explore the novel’s title. Ultimately, who are the angels in David’s world? What are the rules of Corelli’s game? Who are its winners?
11. Discuss Barcelona, especially the traces of renowned architect Antoni Gaudí, as if the city were a character in the novel. How do the tower house in Calle Flassaders (first described in chapter 8, act one) and Vidal’s Villa Helius, along with the cathedrals, cemeteries, Las Ramblas, and other locales, set the tone for The Angel’s Game?
12. What is the effect of reading a novel about a novelist? What truths about the intersection of art and commerce are reflected in the story of Barrido & Escobillas and in their subsequent demise at the hands of an even more controlling publisher?
13. If you had been Inspector Victor Grandes, would you have believed David’s story in chapters 18 and 19 (act three)?
14. How did you interpret the novel’s closing scene, particularly the presence of Cristina? Throughout the novel, how did David reconcile the ideal of Cristina with the realities of circumstance?
15. What is special about the bond between David and Isabella? What do they teach each other about love? If you have read The Shadow of the Wind, discuss your reactions to Daniel’s heritage, revealed in the epilogue.

These questions are provided by the Publisher.

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