THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon [Review]


“Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart,” writes Carlos Ruiz Zafón in The Shadow of the Wind. This is true for ten-year-old Daniel Sempere when he first reads the novel within the novel, The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax, and becomes obsessed with finding out more about the author. Set in the 1940s and 1950s, the novel takes place in various places around Barcelona, as the city is recovering from civil war. Zafón’s Barcelona is full of mysterious and eccentric characters, a creepy haunted mansion, and dark shadows that combine into a very complex novel.

Daniel finds The Shadow of the Wind when his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret library that houses lost books. First time visitors must select a book and promise to protect it for the rest of their lives. After Daniel chooses his book, he becomes fascinated by it and the fact that no one seems to know much about the author. He soon discovers that a man has been burning all the books by Julián Carax and Daniel may own the last remaining copy of his works. After Daniel begins asking questions around town, a man who wants to buy the book visits him, only Daniel recognizes the man as the character of the devil in The Shadow of the Wind. Daniel refuses his offer and as the story progresses he begins seeing other similarities between his life and that of Julián Carax.

This book is great in so many ways, but the thing I loved the most was the artistic writing. Each page feels like poetry that is a true pleasure to read. Daniel describes The Shadow of the Wind as “one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within,” and I think that’s a great way to describe Zafón’s book as well. There are lots of plots and sub-plots, but they are all engaging and contain unique and interesting characters. My favorite is Daniel’s friend Fermín, a homeless man claiming to be a former spy, who has a hilarious outlook on life (one of his pearls of wisdom: “Destiny is usually around the corner. Like a thief, like a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it”).

If you like this book, the author has written a prequel of sorts, The Angel’s Game. Zafón has said that he intends to write four books that feature the Cemetery of Forgotten Books but are all stand-alone stories that don’t need to be read in a particular order. I can’t wait to read The Angel’s Game to see if it can even come close to the wonderful The Shadow of the Wind.

Buy The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon on Amazon by clicking here.

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