The Shadow of the Wind

>> Thursday, December 8, 2011

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Recommended Age: Adult
Publisher: The Penguin Group
ISBN: 978-0-14-303490-2
Year Published: 2004
No. Pages: 486
Genre: Fantasy
Main Character Gender: Male
Read & Reviewed by: Kat

Barcelona, 1945. The city slowly heals from its war wounds, determined to leave the past behind.

Almost eleven, Daniel Sempere is shown by his father, an antiquarian bookseller, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, known only to a few people. According to tradition, the first time someone enters the cemetery, he must choose a book, whichever one he wants, and adopt it, so as to ensure that it will never be forgotten, that it will always stay alive. And so, Daniel finds The Shadow of the Wind, a novel by Julian Carax. After reading the novel, Daniel is transformed and goes on a quest to discover who Carax is. Daniel soon learns that he has the only existing copy of The Shadow of the Wind and a mysterious figure has dedicated himself to eradicating Carax’s works entirely. As Daniel digs into the past, he struggles to uncover truths that have long since been buried. Daniel’s quest leads him to Barcelona’s darkest secrets- one laced with murder, madness, revenge and doomed love.

Written in first person, The Shadow of the Wind reveals Julian Carax’s past in small pieces that I savoured as I was cast under Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s spell. Parts of Carax’s past are cleverly woven into Daniel’s life, which kept the book interesting, while refreshing me with double play. Although The Shadow of the Wind is translated from Spanish, there is no awkwardness in the translation. I was compelled to jot many of the phrases, rich in similes and metaphors into my writer’s notebook, so I could savour them over and over again. Some examples are, "the clouds spilled down from the sky", "it shone like damp stone" and "steam rose from my clothes like a fleeing soul". My favourite simile is "an accent so thick you could spread it on toast".

Reading this book, I felt so close to Daniel; it was as if I was him. In a suspenseful scene in the book, butterflies turned cartwheels in my stomach. I was the one with the pounding heart; I was the one who heard the creak of the floorboards. Zafon used suspense to a great effect, and I could hardly put the book down. The climax of this novel was captivating, for as it climbed, Zafon fed me answers to the plot, and when a mystery was revealed, Zafon still had more hidden up his sleeve. The Shadow of the Wind had all of its elements woven together to flow smoothly and quickly. Zafon drew me into this novel so deeply that Daniel's world became reality. I was always left hungry for more.

Although I loved this book, it bothered me that Daniel didn't evolve or change as a character. Even though Daniel discovers more about Carax, he doesn't discover anything about himself, or at least very little. Daniel was a reliable narrator, but it was sometimes hard to believe that he was a teen. Despite its flaws, The Shadow of the Wind was a powerful novel, and has some qualities of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works. Anyone who loved Marquez’s books, will likely enjoy this novel, as this one contains elements of magical realism too.

Although the main character is male, both genders can devour this book with both hunger and satisfaction. Readers should be aware that there are violent scenes that include death, and a few frank sex scenes.

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