Saturday, June 14, 2014

"The Shadow of the Wind" By Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This book is one I knew I would like, but secretly waited for it to disappoint me. I'm happy to say my reader's intuition was right, and I was not disappointed at all. Another book about books, The Shadow of the Wind can be enjoyed by pretty much any reader, regardless of reading experience.

Something that may be overlooked in this book is a passage towards the back, where you can follow along in Daniel's footsteps through Barcelona with photographs, which is nice for those of us who've never been there, or those who plan to visit Spain in the near future. While reading this book, I consulted it for a feel of the ambience of the area, as well as for its map.

The Plot:
Young Daniel is a bookseller's son, and is granted access to a place known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He finds one book out of thousands, The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, and takes it home with him. After reading, he sets out to find more of the mysterious author's works, only to find they are near impossible to find: someone doesn't want Carax's books read, and is destroying every copy they come across. Will Daniel be able to find who is desecrating the books before his own copy is on the burn list?

Some parts in the beginning of this book made me grimace: there was a voyeuristic sex scene and shortly after Daniel got beaten up. When I see these in fantasy, it doesn't turn me off, but historical fiction usually doesn't have scenes like that, and at times, this book felt more like a crime genre novel than anything else. But despite those aspects, I truly loved the storytelling in this book: the story within a story feature, the dual love stories, and especially the setting and characters.

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books may be my favorite fictional creation. I always love old books, or books that are overlooked, or books that have sat on the bottom shelves of thrift stores so long they have dust on their pages. As a book hoarder rescuer, I tend to look for books that the Cemetery of Forgotten Books would have many of: out-of-prints, first editions, and books with character (imperfect, well-loved books with wear marks included).

It's kind of odd, but my favorite character of the entire book is not Daniel, it's a character we meet about sixty pages in, Fermín Romero de Torres. When we meet him, he's a beggar claiming to be a spy, but he evolves so much more throughout the course of the book. He's the comic relief, as well as that weird uncle whose relation we can't quite remember that we all seem to have.

The Shadow of the Wind encompasses many genres: crime, mystery, historical fiction, a touch of romance, gothic, and literature. With all of those genres and subplots, you'd think the story would get lost in the nuances, but it doesn't, showing that with enough ingenuity you can write books that overflow with ideas. If you seek a book with memorable characters and settings, this one may be for you.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars for another great novel about my favorite subject: books.

Content: Sex, violence, and cruelty to books, so ages 18+.

Page Count: 487 in my paperback edition.

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