Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Published: January 25th, 2005
Source: Purchased
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

Have you ever decided to read a book based on the buzz surrounding it only to be disappointed and betrayed by your own high expectations? Well, The Shadow of the Wind is not one of those books for me. Although it came out a while ago, I only recently decided to pick it up after a few people recommended it with great praise, and wow, I was not disappointed. It's probably one of the best books I've read.
In my schoolboy reveries, we were always two fugitives riding on the spine of a book, eager to escape into worlds of fiction and secondhand dreams.
Daniel, the protagonist, finds himself in a situation that I'm sure all book lovers can relate to: he finds a book (aptly named The Shadow of the Wind) he loves so much that it borders on obsession. He tries to find other books by the same author, Julian Carax, which leads him to wanting to learn more about the writer himself.

Unfortunately for Daniel, he doesn't have the power of the internet to help him on his search. What he does have, however, is an imaginatively enriching backdrop of mid-20th century Barcelona to explore. Admittedly, my knowledge of Spanish history is lacking, so it was difficult for me to connect to certain references and events happening in the story, but I still had no problem getting lost in the Gothic-like mood as Daniel explored the backalleys of the city, unraveling the mystery of Julian Carax's life as he went.

It's definitely not a book that you can just pick up and breeze through. You have to go slowly, switching between the past and present as you go through Julian's life as much as you do with Daniel. It took me a lot longer to read The Shadow of the Wind than it would take for other books of the same length, but what helped was the amazingly diverse cast of  supporting characters who help (or hinder) Daniel along his way, each with their own story. And when I say each of them have their own story, I really do mean that you will learn about the backstory of almost every character you encounter at one point or another in the story.

Perhaps the one person who stole the show for me was Fermin Romero de Torres, a rather peculiar homeless man who soon becomes Daniel's best friend, mentor, and occasional relationship advisor. The only character I found one-dimensional was Daniel's father, who often just stays in the background like a dejected puppy.
"Not evil," Fermin objected. "Moronic, which isn't quite the same thing. [...] What the world needs is more thoroughly evil people and fewer borderline pigheads."
Some people might find all the sidecharacters if you prefer to focus on one main character and story, but personally for me, an abundance of side characters with their own personality and developed narrative is what makes just a good book a great book or a good show a great show.

Overall, between Zafón's evocative writing and the big reveal at the end eliciting a scream of shock from me at 1am, I really loved this book. I can't tell if I'm more excited or scared to read the next book in the series, The Angel's Game. While I can't get enough of Zafón's writing, I'm worried that I'll be extremely disappointed since it seems nothing can top The Shadow of the Wind. (Rating: 5/5)


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