Just one more chapter and then I should go to sleep… one hour later: Ah, I want to read the next chapter as well … two hours later: This will be the last chapter for this evening, I promise!
That was my experience while reading each of the 4 unputdownable books that are part of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. Needless to say, it is my favourite series and it charmed my heart with a great mix of intrigue, mystery, gothic fiction, and unexpected plot twists.
The Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet
Each book can be read as stand-alone story, and each story is great in its own way. However, reading all of them is actually what makes the series so special. The books are quite long (between 300 and 800 pages each), so you really have “time” to dive deep into each story. And you’re not going to regret any minute spent reading them!
§ The Shadow of the Wind
The story follows Daniel Sempere, whose father owns the Sempere&Sons bookstore in Barcelona. Daniel’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret library where Daniel discovers “The Shadow of the Wind” by Julián Carax. When Daniel tries to find other books written by Carax, he engages in a race to discover the entire history of Carax … and it’s an intense race, as someone is seeking out for the same books for decades and burns them all.
§ The Angel’s Game
It tells the story of a young writer, David Martin, who used to be a loyal customer at Sempere&Sons. While living an emotional turmoil, one day he receives a letter from a French editor, asking him to write a book “with the power of changing hearts and minds”. As David starts to write the book, he discovers there’s a connection between the book he’s working on and the house he’s living in.
§ The Prisoner of Heaven
Daniel Sempere is again in the spotlights – he is now now married and lives with his wife and their young son at the Sempere&Sons bookstore. One day an enigmatic man comes at the bookstore and leaves a sinister message for Fermin, Daniel’s friend: “For Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from among the dead and holds the key to the future”. As you can imagine, at that point another adventure begins …
§ The Labyrinth of the Spirits
The story brings in a new character – Alicia, an unofficial detective who is assigned to investigate the disappearance of the Spanish Minister of Culture. Starting from a rare book found in the Minister’s office, Alicia digs deep into a web of crimes committed years ago. The trails also leads her to Sempere&Sons and to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books … the story wouldn’t be complete without them, would it?
Apart from the high intensity of the story, there are two aspects that made me fall in love with these books: the interwoven structure of the series and its literary aspects.
Interwoven structure of the stories
As you read the books, you discover that all narratives take place in the same universe, even though the stories are very different one from another. Not only the geographical location is mainly the same (Barcelona), but some key characters are present throughout the 4 stories. Reading the series is just like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: the more you read, the more you fill in the blank spaces and get a whole new perspective on characters’ lives.
Books about books
You’ve probably noticed from the brief introductions above that each story has a strong literary aspect – for example the passion and obsession for books, or an author working on his masterpiece. The glue that sticks all storylines is the Sempere&Sons bookstore, a place frequented by most characters. Zafón beautifully integrates the literary universe with the other components of his stories.
“Stories have no beginning and no end, only doors through which we may enter them.”
If you’re in the mood for a roller coaster ride, I fully encourage you to hop on the page-turning journey that will make you spend days and nights in the beautiful and dark Barcelona. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
What other unputdownable books have you read? I am looking forward to hearing your experiences!
‘Till next time … happy reading!
PS: I’ve discovered that Zafón also wrote a short story, Rose of Fire, that tells the story of the origins of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
PPS: Check out Zafón’s website if you want to find out more about him (for example interviews or lists of things that cheer him up)