Book Review: ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

October 24, 2009 in Book Reviews by pacejmiller

shadow-of-the-wind

When I first saw Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s popular masterpiece, The Shadow of the Wind, at the local bookstore, I was immediately drawn by the book’s unique title and its plain but intriguing cover illustration.  However, it wasn’t until my fellow blogger at theninthdragonking recommended it that I decided to give it a go.

I just finished it today and all I can say is ‘wow’.  This guy, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, can really write, and the translator Lucia Graves (who converted the book from its original Spanish), can really translate.

The Shadow of the Wind is regarded as a tribute to 19th century gothic novels, something I admit I have never read before.  It tells the story of a young boy in post-Civil War Barcelona, whose life is changed forever when he comes across a rare book written by an obscure author who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  It is a coming-of-age story about books, love, friendship and fate, with just a hint of the supernatural.  At times it is frightening, and other times it can be heartwarming, shocking, gut-wrenching – sometimes all at once.  It is the type of book that makes you want to read it again immediately after you finish it.  It is the kind of novel that gives you goosebumps.

I don’t think the The Shadow of the Wind falls within any specific genre.  I guess I would simply call it good, old fashioned story-telling.  The narrative just blew my mind.  The words spilled off the page and into my imagination.  The pacing was superb, the mysterious plot unfolding with atmospheric tension and suspense.  Zafon makes you believe in his characters, and each one of them has a story to tell.  The clear standout for me would have to be the charming, hilarious and loyal friend of the narrator, Fermin Romero de Torres, one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever come across on page.

If I have anything negative to say about the book, it’s that sometimes it gets just a little too melodramatic.  A bit too over the top.  If a lesser author attempted the same thing, it would probably be a disaster, but Zafon, for the most part, manages to pull it off.  Another minor complaint is that some of the subplots were a tad too long and unnecessarily complicated.  I guess you could say it’s a part of the book’s charm but because of that I felt the story dragged on a bit, especially in the first half of the book.  For me, the second half of the novel was utterly unputdownable, so by contrast the first half was slightly weaker.

Ultimately, a great read, and from a writer’s perspective, terrific to learn from, in particular for characterization and building suspense.  I am already looking forward to picking up the ‘prequel’ to The Shadow of the Wind, the recently released The Angel’s Game.

4.5 stars out of 5