THE SHADOW OF THE WIND
Written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Published by Penguin books, January 25, 2005
My star rating: 5 stars
Barcelona, 1945 – just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly. Find it on Goodreads
If I were to choose 5 short words to describe this book, they would be: Lovely, quiet, powerful, passionate, and connections. This book absolutely blew away my expectations in every way! I went into it not knowing anything about it. I knew that there was a young boy who was brought to a magical place filled with pages, and quickly became obsessed with the author. I had read his other book Marina about a year ago, and kind of expected this to be a mystery novel. And it was, in its own way. The whole way through we are trying to find out more about this mysterious author and unravel his life to find his whereabouts. But it was SOOOOOO much more than that! It was a stunning tale of not only the author, but the character himself, and all of the connecting people that weave through their lives. I can’t even begin to tell you how captivating it was!!
The entire reason why this book was so enchanting was the character development – it was immaculate and breathtaking! We follow the life of Daniel as a young boy, motherless and being raised by his father, as he finds a connection to a book called The Shadow of the Wind. He feels an immense connection with the author and craves to know more. His father is a bookseller, and has many connections, so he speaks with as many people as possible to find other books and more about the authors life. This quickly blooms into an obsession of sorts. This adventure proves to be both difficult and dangerous as the books have all been destroyed and there’s a reason behind it. Daniel needs to know why. This is where we see simultaneous story lines – Daniel living his life and piecing together the puzzle of this authors life. As the reader, lines get blurred as we see some parallels between Daniel and the author, and we realize how Daniel could have fallen so passionately in love with the book.
The story line of the author is a confusing one, but in a good way. We meet people from the authors past, gather new information, and see a life building before our eyes. But honestly, the best part of this adventure was a character named Fermín…. he was absolutely amazing! Brilliant, snarky, and so good with words. He knew just what to say and how to get out of the stickiest of situations. He helped Daniel with his personal life as well as helping him with the investigation.
But it wasn’t only the main characters that were well developed. Even the side characters, no matter their length or involvement in the story, were bursting with emotion. I felt their pain, sorrow, joy, and everything else so deeply!
The setting was also amazing. Originally set in the 40’s and 50’s, we see a modern Barcelona. But we also get glimpses of the war torn Barcelona in the height of the war. We see the city itself, the news headlines, the social impact, and what became of the city afterwards. I wish that I could read more about this country!
The only issue that I had with this book was that the pace seemed slightly off in the beginning. We were introduced to Daniel and the book, as well as some key characters, and then we switch to a few years later, where more key players were introduced. Not a big deal. But I kept wondering what the first part really had to do with the story as a whole once we were a few years down the line. I kept wondering why they were talked about at all and if they were coming back. There was a reason for this in the end, but it was slightly jarring being taken away from that and pushed into something else.
I am SO glad that I finally read this book! It was just so good! Full of emotion, and a story that I won’t soon forget. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves character driven stories with a little mysterious intrigue and danger.
Until next time, happy reading!