It’s rare to encounter a story as tangled as The Shadow of the Wind, yet still manage to follow the main thread. Every time you think it can’t become any more complex, it does. But if you stick with it, you discover that the mystery is not as deep as you think. The complexities arise from human imperfections as old as humanity itself.
Daniel, son of a Barcelona bookseller, is ten years old when his father takes him to a Gothic labyrinth known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There, he becomes obsessed with a novel by an obscure author named Julián Carax. It soon becomes evident that the book holds great significance to several mysterious individuals, one of whom wants to buy Daniel’s copy, another who wants to destroy it. As Daniel grows into his teenage years, he becomes obsessed with the Carax story growing out of events before, during and after the Spanish Civil War. Aided by Fermín Romero de Torres, a beggar whom Daniel befriends, he delves into the tale of broken hearts, broken families, a doomed romance, a ruined mansion, and a sadistic police investigator. The more Daniel learns, the more he finds that the tragedy reflects current events in his own life. As one character puts it, “a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón has created an atmosphere so sinister that only the bonds of love and friendship can relieve the tension. As Daniel experiences the heartache of betrayal, his friend Fermín alleviates his sorrow with an irrepressible spirit of assurance that good will triumph in the end.
I wish I could award The Shadow of the Wind the five-star rating its craftsmanship deserves. Sadly, offensive language throughout the book forces me to reduce my rating to four stars.