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Review: "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

MacPharlain enjoys reading good books from many genres. His favorite is historical fiction and his favorite author is Patrick O'Brian.

"The Shadow of the Wind"

"The Shadow of the Wind"

A Riveting Gothic Mystery

The Shadow of the Wind is a dark and thrilling novel set in the Gothic heart of Barcelona, Spain. The book has many elements: part mystery, part tragedy, and part love letter to great literature.

It has a cool, mysterious-sounding title... so it must be good, right? Read on and find out. You'll also discover some of my favorite quotes from the book.

What's The Book About?

Daniel, the son of a Barcelona book dealer, discovers a little-known book called The Shadow of the Wind. Entranced by the book's dark and tragic story, he tries to find other books written by its mysterious author, Julian Carax. What he learns is that someone has been burning every copy of Carax's novels. Daniel may possess one of the last copies remaining.

Daniel's efforts to protect the book and learn more about Carax lead him into a world of dark secrets, forbidden love, and scars from Barcelona's troubled past during the Spanish Civil War and World War II.

A story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.

My Thoughts On This Book

There are two things you'll learn about Zafón when reading this book...he loves books and he has one crazy dark imagination.

The Shadow of the Wind is a fascinating story wrapped around a love letter to great literature. Zafón's love of literature pours off of the pages. It's a book about a book and there's another book inside of it. Along the way, he praises classic books, the joy of reading, and the value that books offer us. And it's a tribute to failed authors, many of the story's characters are failed or aspiring authors.

The book is a tragic stew of love, obsession, pride, revenge, religion, friendship, and remorse. Zafón blends these ingredients together with more than a dash of cruelty. It's a harsh story and there's a lot of cruelty...much of it within families. As a dad and husband, it was impossible for me to read some of the scenes without shaking my head and thinking, "how could someone ever treat their own family like that?". Zafón does an excellent job of using words to paint the story effectively without being overly graphic.

Reading The Shadow of the Wind reminded me of the TV show're always trying to figure out what the real mystery is during the story. Is it a man-made conspiracy? Something paranormal or supernatural? Or simply a tragic coincidence of events? Another similarity is the labyrinth of subplots and old connections between characters. Zafón even mentions Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island which is one of the books featured on Lost.

This city is a sorceress, you know, Daniel? It gets under your skin and steals your soul without you knowing it.

Writing Style

Most of the book is a narrative told by Daniel. There are flashbacks where other characters tell Daniel their story, at which Zafón changes the style to a third-person recount of events. These passages are in italic so they're easy to identify. I like that he wrote it this way because the interactions would have interrupted the story's flow. Zafón also uses this to provide more background info than that person would have told.

Zafón's use of words to describe a scene and evoke emotions is awesome. The book's translator, Lucia Graves, deserves credit for translating those words beautifully from the original Spanish. After reading this novel, I feel like I know the city of Barcelona intimately although I've never been there.

It's an intricate plot full of subplots and interconnected characters that sucks you into its world of tragic events.

Lives with no meaning go straight past you, like trains that don't stop at your station.

Three Things I Liked

  1. An intricate plot with multiple layers that kept me engaged and reminded me of Lost.
  2. Insight into a city and a part of history (Spanish Civil War) that I knew little about before reading this book.
  3. Rich and descriptive storytelling.

There are no second chances in life, except to feel remorse.

My Rating of "The Shadow of the Wind"

It's an excellent read that will gnaw at your consciousness until you finish it. The story telling was rich and dark with layers of sub plots and mystery.

Sometimes we think people are like lottery tickets, that they're there to make our most absurd dreams come true.

A Few More of My Favorite Quotes

"We humans are willing to believe anything rather than the truth."

"When we stand in front of a coffin, we all see only what is good or what we want to see."

"Mother Nature is the meanest of bitches..."


Thanks for reading my review. Now it's your turn...what did you think of The Shadow of the Wind? Have you read any other novels by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (or Julian Carax)? What's your favorite quote from the book? Please leave a comment below.

Your Reviews...

natashaely on June 19, 2012:

Surprisingly for me I didn't read the book, I listened to the talking book. It was fascinatinga dn the music was created by the author which was obvious as it fitted the story beautifully. This was a haunting book and I got totally lost within the pages (figuratively speaking of course). I have read The Angel's game which was also mesmerising, i was going to review this myself but I think you have summed this up nicely. I have added this to my online squidoo library as it will make an excellent addition amongst the fiction novels.

You should try reading The Art of Murder I think it would appeal to you. great lens :)

MacPharlain (author) on May 17, 2012:

@anonymous: It amazed me how the beauty of Zafon's language carried over into the English translation. The translator did an excellent job.

Thanks for increasing my vocabulary...I had to look up ensorcelling and tenebrous.

anonymous on May 17, 2012:

This novel was ensorcelling on so many levels, and Ruiz Zafon's language kept me entranced. I found that I enjoyed this novel more than The Angel's Game, also by Ruiz Zafon, especially since Shadow of the Wind wasn't quite as dark (although both definitely share their tenebrous plot elements).

JeanJohnson LM on June 29, 2011:

I enjoyed "shadow of the wind" very much. I couldn't put it down and overall the plot was intriguing. It made me also purchase "prince of mist" but "Shadow of the wind is still my favorite.