The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books (Book #1 of 4)
Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery
Pages: 506 pages (US Kindle edition)
Translated Edition Published: 2004 by Weidenfield & Nicholson, Orion Books (UK) & 2004 by Penguin Books (US)
An astonishingly engaging story within a story type of novel; the passion for books and reading introduced in the first chapter was just an appetizer before all the interconnecting twists and turns.
I’ve been having a lot of good lucks lately in reading books outside of epic fantasy—my favorite sub-genre. The Shadow of the Wind is a novel that I’ve heard so many positive things about for several years; it is one of those books that’s often recommended by readers, regardless of their main preferences sub-genre of reading. And now that I’ve read it, I can understand why it received all the critical acclaims. Sheer brilliance in storytelling and writing aside, The Shadow of the Wind is a book about books, a story about a story, and it would be difficult for readers—who obviously love books—of all kind of genre to resist the charm in the narrative. I’m going backward here because The Shadow of the Wind was published first, but if you’ve read and loved The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, I think you’re going to love this novel as well. These two books have many similarities in themes and their approaches to the passion for books and its mystery + coming-of-age centered plotlines.
“In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.”
The Shadow of the Wind is the first book in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The story takes place in Barcelona, 1945, and here’s the short premise of the novel. On his eleventh birthday, Daniel Sempere wakes up and finds out that he cannot remember the face of his mother anymore. To cheer him up, Daniel’s father takes him to the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library that holds the books forgotten by the world, just sitting there waiting for the right reader to choose a book that will hold a special meaning to them. Daniel selects a book titled The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, and he falls in love with it immensely, then he seeks other books written by Julian only to find out that someone has been destroying every book written by the author. He may just be holding the last copy of the author’s work, and he’s trying to solve the mystery behind this bizarre incident.
“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”
As I mentioned, The Shadow of the Wind is a story within a story. It tells a coming-of-age story of Daniel Sempere as he tries to unravel the mystery behind Julian Carax and the disappearances of his novels. Despite this novel has been published for more than a decade—almost two decades in its original language—now, I somehow was able to approach this book knowing close to nothing; I plan to keep it that way for future readers who stumbles upon this review. Let me, however, say that I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I grew to care about the characters in this novel, especially for Daniel and Fermin—Fermin is hands down my favorite character of the book. Daniel’s story and the secrets he unravels continuously gripped me, Fermin’s personality plus his dialogues are so intoxicating, and most of all the friendship these two nurtured is incredibly heartwarming.
“One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn’t have to understand something to feel it. By the time the mind is able to comprehend what has happened, the wounds of the heart are already too deep.”
I haven’t been to Barcelona, what I know of it, I see, learn, and heard from other people and other media. However, there’s a super atmospheric quality that’s so immersive to Zafón’s writing; when I was reading the book, it feels like I was truly there. I’m in a similar situation with my friends, in that I haven’t read the book in its original language, and because of this, I can’t gauge the accuracy of the translations. But as far as reading the book in English goes, the translation done by Lucia Graves flows absolutely well. There were a few flashback sections where I found the book to be slightly uneven in its pacing, but for the majority of the novel, Zafón’s prose and Graves’ translations were extraordinarily compelling and accessible. I’m serious; I lost count on how many passages I highlighted because they were so well-written and relatable to me.
“Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”
Picture: The Shadow of the Wind by Vincent Chong
There’s simply no scarcity of insightful and wise remarks within this novel that brims with resonating themes of growing up, love, found family, friendship, and books. In equal measure, it’s also filled with revenge, loss, and tragedy. The Shadow of the Wind is an amazing piece of literature that begins and concluded its story in a richly satisfying way. Do note that although this is the first book of a quartet, the novel worked wonderfully well as a standalone; I’m actually surprised that there are three more books in the series. If any one of the sequels is as good as this one, then I know I’m in for more unforgettable stories to read.
“I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day.”
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)
Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!
My Patrons: Alfred, Devin, Hamad, Joie, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas.