The final volume from the critically acclaimed Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle, in which the reader is transported once again into the mesmerising world of intrigue, suspense and compelling 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 revealing 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
The Labyrinth of the Spirits is published by Orion Books and is available here.
Carlos Ruiz Zafrón
Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of eight novels, including the international phenomenon THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, and THE ANGEL’S GAME. His work has been published in more than forty-five different languages, has sold over thirty million copies, and has been honoured with numerous international awards. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
Reviewed by Amber Mears Brown
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