In the novel, “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, we read about the story of Daniel Sempere, a boy who lost his mother at a young age. In an attempt to connect to the boy, his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
There, Daniel stumbles upon a book by Julián Carax called “The Shadow of the Wind.” And, after a sleepless night of reading, he begins to seek other books by Carax.
But he soon discovers something rather strange; his copy of “The Shadow of the Wind” is the only surviving novel by Carax. The rest of his books have been hunted down and burned.
This discovery sends Daniel careening into a story that began long before he was born. Intruding as he does towards the end, he is forced to retrace the steps and stories left behind from Carax himself.
According to the stories, Carax lived in Barcelona, fled to Paris shortly before his death, and returned to Barcelona where he died and was buried in a mass grave.
Now, in post-World War II and post-civil war Barcelona, Daniel must find the truth in order to understand why Carax’s books are being hunted to extinction.
What I find absolutely amazing about this novel is that it was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into 40 or more languages. None of the beauty of the original manuscript was lost in this translation at all. I’m in awe by the lyricism of the writing in this book. The plot unfolds beautifully, the characters are gorgeously three-dimensional, and the setting of 1945 Barcelona truly sets the scene. Overall, I’m a big fan of this novel.
The plot is somehow both dark and intriguing, drawing the reader in and compelling them to keep reading, in order to solve the mystery. I kept finding myself making inferences and predictions that were revealed later on to only partially be the truth. To reveal the story bit by bit, Zafón takes testimonials and letters, mixes them in to the overarching story, and, then at the end, brings everything together in a masterful piece of writing.
The main character, Daniel, was written beautifully. We, as readers, get to see him brokenhearted, in love, and conflicted, amongst other things. Zafón writes his characters in a way that they seem like a person one could run into on the street and hold a conversation with. They are so relatable, so human that it’s almost difficult to not relate to them in some facet of their personality. One of the things that completely left me dumbstruck was how, as more of Julián Carax’s story was revealed, the more it seemed that Daniel was a younger version of him, but with a happier ending.
Barcelona on its own is a fascinating place to have a book set. Its history, architecture, and predisposition to fog makes it a murky, mystery-filled location for this novel in particular. Now, add in a pinch of conflict from its civil war plus World War II, and you get a city plagued by physical and emotional destruction. The politics of this era add another layer to everything that occurs in the book.
Personally, the first time I read this book, it shot to the top of my list of favorite books; it’s that good. Something about how the book almost seems like a love letter to books everywhere intrigued me and made me love it even more. I knew I was going to love this book from page one and I did.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves Gothic literature, Spanish history, and mysteries. The fantasy aspect, along with the romantic one, put this book on my radar, but really, I think that anyone who likes slow-burn books with big reveals scattered throughout the plot would love this book as much as I do. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who is just looking for a quick read; this book requires a certain level of dedication to get through.
Overall, I give it 6/5 stars. Yes, you read that right. This book broke my star rating scale.