Thursday, February 9, 2023

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Labyrinth of the Spirits

As a child, Daniel Sempere discovered a book that would change his life forever. Now a grown man, he is just one step away from solving the mystery of his mother’s death when a new plot is revealed, much deeper and darker than he could ever have imagined. That is when Alicia Gris appears, a soul born from the shadows of war, to lead Daniel to the heart of darkness and reveal the secret history of his family ... at a terrible price.
This is the final chapter in the story that began with The Shadow of the Wind and brings it to a grand finale. It is a tribute to the world of books, the art of storytelling and the magical link between literature and life.

Comment: After years waiting for the price of this book to come down, I've finally gave up and decided to request it at the library. It's a big book and it's part of a series which I have loved reading so I was feeling a little eager to own it but now that the library made it possible for me to borrow it, I don't feel as I've lost something by not owning it. Knowing this world will be a never ending cycle within the books themselves is enjoyment enough.

In this fourth full length book in the amazing Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, the author takes the reader once again into a world of clues and secrets, of characters running from or looking for something. The story goes back to the beginning of how some characters got to be where they are now and the search for the truth about the books by Julian Carax continues while Alicia, a girl Fermín helped when the civil war begun, is now the protagonist of a chase which will not be easy for her nor for those she interacts with or that aren't what they seem. Is there any connection between all the events of the past and the work of Julian Carax and David Martín? How is Daniel and his late mother connected to all this?

I think there are notes in all the books in the series, letting us know how the books can be read in any order, as a door to this labyrinth world the author created. In a way, I must say it is so, there are countless details in all books which one could use to spark an interest or to explain a doubt, but to be fair, thinking about the need to also understand the main plot, this should not be the one people read first. Yes, it does work well on itself, but many of the situations alluded just won't make the best sense if one has not read the other stories before.

There is no doubt whatsoever: Carlos Ruiz Zafón was a mater storyteller and all the things included in the book make sense, explain something somehow, even wen it seems difficult to imagine how, in the middle of so many paths to follow. Of course this is intentional and does enrich the reader's experience, something I loved, but I must confess that while I loved all the books, the impact of the first just has no comparison.

In this one we finally follow the labyrinth path which explains some of little doubts that remained from the other books. The author was, indeed, clever in how everything is linked and put together but I must say some sections took quite a long time to get to the point and not everything, to me, would have been necessary to be so detailed, namely the torture scenes and the situations which happened by stages; some of those just took too many pages. I also think the beginning was a bit confusing and when it finally started to make sense, part of me was already a bit tired.

This aside, there's no doubt on the power of the prose nor in the message the author wanted to convey. Nothing in life is simple and if there was an element I enjoyed was when some things were finally explained and made sense. Some discoveries were amazing and surprising and gave the story an intensity I confess I would not expect, while others weren't as imaginative but not less powerful anyway. 

The characters are another one of the strongest elements in the books and here we see the good and the bad ones have their fate served. Some of the villains were a bit of a caricature, to be honest, and very predictable, while others a bit more understandable. We also meet some characters who have faced terrible things or survived things no one would imagine possible and that affected their judgement and the way they think about how to act next. There's always a certain sense of doubt in everything they decide to do and, in part, that made the story more appealing to read.

I especially liked Alicia, but it took me a while to warm up to her. I understand the idea, but I also think the author gave her a too aloof aura in general... even Daniel here seemed less focused on his beliefs or the attitude he had in the other books... I suppose the tactic was to show how everyone is a set of layers and not one dimensional, but sometimes that made reading about their choices something very frustrating.

I liked this's a pity the author isn't among us anymore to add more layers to his forgotten books cemetery but re-reading will certainly help, one day...
Grade: 7/10

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