Literary Fiction Mystery

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

on
27 July 2018
The Shadow of the Wind Book Cover The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Antiquarian booksellers
Orion
2005
510

Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'cemetery of lost books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out 'La Sombra del Viento' by Julian Carax. But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax's work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.

Foreboding

“I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, … ‘Daniel you mustn’t tell anyone what you’re about to see today’ my father warned.”

That wonderful opening line sets the scene for an eerie and mysterious story waiting to unfold over the next 400 pages. I’ve never forgotten that image.

The tradition is that the first time someone visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books he must choose a book and adopt it. Daniel chooses ‘Shadow of the Wind’ by Julian Carax, OR the book chooses him. Daniel along with his father, his father’s friend Barcelo and his niece Clara, investigate what happened to the author, only to realise that this may be the last surviving version of ‘Shadow of the Wind’. Their research uncovers the dramatic events that befell Julain Carax and the woman he loved and hoped to marry, Penelope.

Years’ later, one dark drizzly night walking through Barcelona a mysterious rasping voice calls Daniel from the shadows and offers any amount of money for the book. By match-light Daniel sees a burnt, grotesque, and mutilated face telling him he wants the book and to give it up for his sake and the sake of his friend Clara. What does he want to do with it? “Burn them” he whispers.

Needless to say, Daniel keeps the book and searches for the truth behind it and its author, in a hot, misty, atmospheric Barcelona that brings suspense and intrigue. It is a wonderfully written story with subtle complexities and layers, and you can feel the chill down your back as you urge Daniel to continue in his investigations to uncover the good, the bad and the retribution surrounding Carax. The characters offer depth and range, and you’re not quite sure what intentions are genuine and where your sympathies will lie at the end. What is the horror that hangs over Carax?

This is the first of a trilogy along with Angels Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. It is also the best!

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Peter Donnelly
Ireland

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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