Buried deep in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books rests a novel, its handsome cover thick with dust, its pages brittle with age, its title etched eponymously in gold along the spine: The Shadow of the Wind.
This is the book that 10-year-old Daniel Sempre discovers one bleak Barcelona morning when his book-seller father takes him to a secret mausoleum for out-of-print works. This serendipitous discovery launches young Daniel into a Gothic, garish journey to find out more about the book's elusive author, Julian Carax, while coming of age in a Catalunya still reeling from the Spanish Civil War.
What unfolds in Daniel's multi-year quest is dramatic and thrilling. Author Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novel expertly twists and turns in currents of mystery, passion, and revenge as Daniel unravels the puzzle that is Julian Carax. Ruiz's text will trap you, seduce you, and keep you reading late into the night. It will be time well spent.
The Shadow of the Wind is lush with memorable characters like the lovable beggar-turned-bookkeeper Fermin, the angelic Clara Barcelo, and the despicable, unmerciful Inspector Fumero. The characters that grace and plague Daniel's life seem to mirror those prevalent in Carax's, often making it difficult to distinguish where the past ends and the present begins. The occasional flip between narrators and discovery of long-lost letters only heightens this experience.
While at times, the threads connecting Daniel and Carax may appear a bit too neat and the blending of past with present may make you pause, and re-read a passage, these elements add complexity to Ruiz's novel. They force readers to peel back the onion-like layers of the text, revealing common themes of transformation, identity, and sacrifice. It is precisely these layers, combined with a gripping mystery, which make the book so difficult to put down.
Ruiz paints his scenes like an artist paints a canvass. The world he creates is vibrant and rich with detail. The dark, dank cellar when Daniel discovers the tombs of Carax's teenage lover and their child comes to life, while descriptions of an icy gun grazing the back of a neck or a strange shadow flickering across bloodstained walls will literally send chills up the spine.
And for readers who have been to Barcelona- or Europe- Ruiz effortlessly whisks you back to stained corner cafes, like Els Quatre Gats, to misty mornings on lonely brick streets, and to steps of jutting cathedrals that sprawl through city Gothic quarters.
The Shadow of the Wind will get under your skin and steal your soul without you knowing. It is a marvelous read.