Cover illustration by: Matt Duffin
The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books (Book #4 of 4)
Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery
Pages: 833 pages (US Kindle edition)
Translated Edition Published: 2018 by Weidenfield & Nicholson, Orion Books (UK) & Harper (US)
An absorbing literary masterpiece embedded with every range of emotions.
“Tell our stories to the world, and never forget that we exist so long as someone remembers us.”
To express how much I loved The Labyrinth of the Spirits, and the entirety of The Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, is a challenging task that I never predicted would ever happen to me, but attempt it I shall. I think it’s a seriously missed but redeemable opportunity that many readers didn’t continue reading the series after they finished The Shadow of the Wind. For the sake of comparison, there are more than 436k ratings for The Shadow of the Wind on Goodreads at the time of writing this review, The Labyrinth of the Spirits has 22k ratings. Don’t get me wrong, The Shadow of the Wind is an incredible book that worked great as a standalone; I won’t deny that. However, believe me when I say that there’s more—so much more—to the astonishing tales you’ve read in The Shadow of the Wind. If you truly want to experience the full magnitude of Zafón’s astounding talent as a master storyteller, and I can’t emphasize this highly enough, it is mandatory for you to read all four books in this series.
Picture: The Labyrinth of the Spirits VII: Ariadna and The Scarlet Prince by Vincent Chong
The Labyrinth of the Spirits is the fourth and final volume in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I can only speak from my own experience, although it has been stated that you can begin your journey through this series from whichever installment, I strongly suggest you read it in publication order. I personally believe that the key points, characterizations, and revelations would work so much better this way. The story in The Labyrinth of the Spirits mostly follows the tale of Alicia Gris, at least for the first half, as she tries to unravel the most shocking conspiracies in the history of Spain. I was surprised by this at first, but knowing Zafón, I immediately knew there was no need to worry; nothing he writes in this quartet was ever redundant, everything is always important. The Labyrinth of the Spirits is the biggest book in the series, and Zafón had time to build and develop a new story—that’s how it seemed at first anyway—and characters from scratch before connecting all the dots that shaped the tapestry of tragedy, regrets, ambition, and love. It is a bittersweet tale that utilizes everything established in the previous three books; stories within stories, passion for books, reading, writing, and many more, eventually ending these extraordinary stories with an extremely satisfying conclusion.
“You’d be surprised at how often one looks in the present or in the future for answers that are always in the past.”
The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is a series filled with well-written characters that are deeply flawed and complex. Daniel Sempere, Fermin, Bea, David Martin, Alicia Gris, many more characters I refrain from mentioning to avoid spoilers, and I’m happy to say that their respective stories reached a proper closure here. All of the characters throughout the series, one way or another, played an irreplaceable role in this maze of lives and destiny. The characters have become so real to me that the appearances/mentioning of their names sparked invoked a reaction; I was scared for them, I cared about their journey, and during their pursuits of better lives and truths, the heartbreaking revelations they stumbled upon… hurts. When the memories buried under mountains of silence resurface and act as a harbinger of pain instead of light, my heart actually broke together with the characters; I was stunned.
“Nobody must know what I have explained here. Nobody must know the truth, because I’ve learned that in this world truth only hurts, and God loves and helps those who lie.”
That’s how engrossed I was by the stories and characters that Zafón has crafted throughout this novel and quartet. These broken souls have gone through many gangrenes of hope, and I genuinely want them to find happiness. Whether they truly find happiness or not, you should read the series and find out for yourself.
“Sometimes, when the gods aren’t looking and destiny loses its way, even good people get a taste of good luck in their lives.”
There isn’t much more I can say regarding the magnificence of this novel without elaborating upon spoilery details, and I don’t want that; I want you to be surprised and amazed by Zafón’s masterful storytelling just like I did. However, allow me one more opportunity to praise Zafón and Lucia Graves’ translation. As always, the prose was utterly unputdownable, atmospheric, immersive, and evocative. For the first time in the series, Zafón uses both third-person and first-person narration told from the perspective of multiple characters, and this helps demonstrates the complexity and astounding accomplishment that Zafón has achieved with his large-scale stories. Juggling and showing events from multiple characters instead of just one this time definitely boost the strengths of the narrative immeasurably. I found Zafón’s prose to be highly relatable, and as always, there were a myriad of quotes I highlighted throughout the novel that I wish I can share with you. Unfortunately, I can’t; the quantity would require a section of its own.
“A painting is never finished. The trick is to know at what point to leave it unfinished.”
Picture: The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Vincent Chong
I have traversed through these labyrinths of stories, and I will conclude by saying that I loved this finale even more than the critically acclaimed The Shadow of the Wind. This novel is a brilliant masterwork that every reader must read; Zafón has concluded The Cemetery of Forgotten Books terrifically. I’ll even go as far as claiming that The Labyrinth of the Spirits is my number one favorite non-SFF novel at the moment. The gigantic puzzle constructed by words throughout the series has reached its spellbinding completion. Thrilling mystery, compelling narrative, endearing characters, and engaging prose have been demonstrated effortlessly. Not a single page of this 800 pages novel was dull to me, and I feel both satisfied and sorrowful that the time of farewell is here. Goodbye for now The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, I’m confident we’ll meet again.
Thank you to Lucia Graves for the superb English translation, and most of all, thank you to Carlos Ruiz Zafón for writing such an outstanding series.
“Stories have no beginning and no end, only doors through which one may enter them.
A story is an endless labyrinth of words, images, and spirits, conjured up to show us the invisible truth about ourselves. A story is, after all, a conversation between the narrator and the reader, and just as narrators can only relate as far as their ability will permit, so too readers can only read as far as what is already written in their souls.
This is the golden rule that sustains every artifice of paper and ink. Because when the lights go out, when the music ends and the stalls are empty again, the only thing that matters is the mirage that has been engraved in the theater of the imagination all readers hold in their mind. This, and the hope every maker of tales carries within: that readers will open their hearts to these little creatures made of ink and paper, and give them a part of themselves so they can be immortal, even if only for a few minutes.”
The Cemetery of Forgotten Books = 18.5/20 stars
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