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review 2018-10-07 14:59
Wow! A hell of a read! Excellent novel, beautifully written.
The Labyrinth of the Spirits - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

 

 

This long volume brings to a close the series started in The Shadow of the Wind. I read The Shadow in the Wind a long time ago and enjoyed it but haven’t read the two books that followed it. This latest novel takes place mainly during the Franco regime and revolves around Alicia Gris, agent for the Government, embarking on the case of a Minister who has mysteriously disappeared. The book also still involves the Sempere family but Alicia is the main character and catalyst. The plot involves all the worst aspects of living under a Fascist regime including betrayal, murder, torture amongst others.

The style is literary and witty and makes the experience well worthwhile, resulting in a wonderful novel, highly recommended.

 

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text 2018-09-22 13:00
Halloween Bingo Update 22 September
White Lies - Jeremy Bates
Hark! The Herald Angels Scream - Christopher Golden
Loch Ness Revenge - Hunter Shea
The Labyrinth of the Spirits - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Well, I have a special talent. So far I've managed to dodge my finished reads between called squares and haven't got a single completed square!

 

However, I do have 4 books in progress for called squares. New release, Modern masters of Horror, Cryptozoologist, and Diverse Voices. Two of these should be finished soon. The last one is a brick, over 800 pages, but I got it from Netgalley so I won't change it.

 

I didn't want to win anything this year anyway, as I won a prize the first time and am happy to let others have a turn. I'm just bemused. Maybe weird kitty doesn't want his face scratched!

 

 

New Release - Hark! The Herald Angels Scream edited by Christopher Golden

(384 pages)(N)

 

Darkest London - A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (336 pages)

                                   

Country House Mystery - The Magic Cottage by James Herbert (400 pages)

 

Modern Masters of Horror - White Lies by Jeremy Bates (292 pages)

 

A Grim Tale - The Second Sister by Rae D. Magdon (212 pages)

 

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Genre: Suspense - The Moor by Sam Haysom (224 pages)(N)

 

Terrifying Women - The Last Man by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (512 pages)

 

Gothic - Unsettled Spirits by J. Matthew Saunders - 2 stars

 

Romantic Suspense - Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart - 3 1/2 stars

 

Dead Lands - Incubation by Adrienne Lecter (312 pages)

 

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Cryptozoologist - Loch Ness Revenge by Hunter Shea (150 pages)

 

Fear the Drowning Deep - Dark Voyage by Helen Susan Swift (260 pages)

 

Free Space - Dark Ride by P.G. Kassel (116 pages)

 

Classic Horror - The Monk by Matthew Lewis (416 pages)

 

Baker Street Irregulars - Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan - 3 stars

 

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Amateur Sleuth - Pieces of Her by Karen Slaughter - 4 stars

 

Ghost Stories - Trapped in Room 217 by Thomas Kingsley Troupe - 4 1/2 stars

 

Genre: Horror - The Hermits Creepy Pet by Terry M West - 3 1/2 stars

 

13 - No. 13 Toroni: A Mystery by Julius Regis - 3 stars

 

Shifters - The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan - 5 stars

 

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Diverse Voices - The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (832 pages)(N)

 

Terror in a Small Town - General of the Dead by Richard Gleaves (608 pages)

 

Supernatural - John Peters In The Land Of Demons by A.H.Matai (372 pages)(N)

 

Relics and Curiosities - The Amulet Thief by Luanne Bennett (325 pages)

 

Doomsday - Doomsday Anthology by Samie Sands 3 stars

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review 2018-09-19 12:26
A magical visit to Barcelona and to the world of books and stories. Unmissable!
The Labyrinth of the Spirits - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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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review 2018-09-18 06:57
The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Labyrinth of the Spirits - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The final chapter in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series follows secret police investigator Alicia Gris, scarred body and soul, as she takes one final case, and finds herself following a deadly trail which begins with a rare book that leads her back into the shadows of Barcelona's dark past, to the horrors of Franco's fascist regime....and even greater evils that some will commit any act to keep hidden.
A brilliant literary thriller that captures a pitch perfect sense of time and place, along with a near Gothic atmosphere that wafts from the pages like fog and the scent of old books, while the tension ratchets up to garotte tautness.

I was drawn in by the first paragraph, and didn't come up for air until I reached the last page.

Highly recommended finale to a highly recommended series.

Thanks to HarperCollins for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-08-22 14:41
Magischer Realismus aus Barcelona
Der Schatten des Windes - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Ich liebe dieses Juwel, die Geschichte ist wundervoll, sprachlich sehr ansprechend, der Plot ausladend, episch breit aber nicht zu breit, mit vielen unerwarteten Wendungen, ein Meisterwerk der Erzählkunst. Eine nicht unbedeutende Nebenrolle spielt die Stadt Barcelona. Wenn man schon einmal dort war, hilft es sehr, diesen Roman von Anfang an zu lieben, denn man findet sich sofort an den Orten wieder, die auch ein Tourist öfter besucht, nur in einer anderen Zeit.

Ein Umstand lässt mich im Zusammenhang mit diesem Roman von Zafon aber über mich selbst wundern. Es ist schon komisch, wenn ich einen amerikanischen Roman lese, der episch breit, weitschweifend und mit Myriaden von Personal bevökert ist, nervt mich das meist tierisch, denn ich finde es geschwätzig. Bei einem Spanier, Portugiesen oder Lateinamerikaner find ich das hingegen fast immer wundervoll und märchenhaft, eben eine Form von magischem Realismus. Habe ich Vorurteile oder sind die Amis wirklich so viel schlechter im episch breiten Erzählen?

Der Plot gleicht einem Griechischen Drama aus Freundschaft, Familie, Rache, Bosheit, großer Liebe, Schicksal, Mord und Totschlag vor dem historischen Hintergrund als sich Spanien nach und nach zu einem völlig abgehalfterten faschistischen Staat entwickelt.  Hierzu gibt es auch ein paar politische Weisheiten én passent, die uns Zafon vermittelt.
"Dieses Land ist in die Binsen gegangen." [...] "Es ist wie die Gezeiten, wissen Sie", sagte er. "Die Barberei, meine ich. Sie zieht ab, und man hält sich für gerettet, aber sie kommt immer wieder zurück."

Da gruselt es mich gerade angesichts der politischen Situation in Österreich und dieser prophetischen Aussage. Irgenwo habe ich vor Wochen gehört: Wenn jene Generation, die Krieg und Faschismus selbst erlebt hat, ausgestorben ist, kommen sie wieder, weil sich keiner mehr erinnert, wie furchtbar das wirklich war. Gleich dieser Welle der Barberei, die Zafon hier anschaulichst beschrieben hat.

Fazit: Eine grandiose Geschichte voller Spannung, ich bin gespannt wie es mit Band 2 weitergeht.

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