Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Pages: 487
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: April 4, 2004
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Personal Copy

Of all the books I've read so far in 2011, this is my favorite book hands down! As with any novel that I really enjoy, it's hard to write an adequate review. There's just so much I want to say, yet so much that I want to leave undisturbed. The Shadow of the Wind is definitely a novel that you want to delve into without having been spoiled.

This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. 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 it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.

Daniel Sempere's journey begins when, as a young boy, his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Since this is his first visit, Daniel needs to adopt a book that he must protect for the rest of his life. Tasked with such an important endeavor, he roams the aisles until he sees one book that stands out: The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. After reading his new novel, Daniel tries to locate more of Carax's works. Unfortunately, someone has been collecting all the copies and burning them. Intrigued, Daniel begins to piece together the mystery that is the author's life, and simultaneously uncovers a side of Barcelona that he never knew existed.

If I had to categorize The Shadow of the Wind, I think I'd go with literary thriller that borders on noir fiction. From the very beginning, Zafrón creates such a dark, Gothic atmosphere, the type of setting that I think makes Jane Eyre so popular. All the traditional elements, such as decaying buildings, dark shadows, and hidden rooms were present, along with sex, torture, romance, and horror. I was most impressed by how easily the literary writing style came across, and, while some parts had me rolling my eyes at how melodramatic certain lines were, I kept turning page after page. There was an overwhelming sense of need to find out what happened next, and I haven't read a book like that in some time.

So much of the story depended on the believability of the characters, and there were many. One of the story's aspects I thoroughly enjoyed was having to figure out the reliability of the different people Daniel meets during his quest to learn more about Julián Carax. Characters often offered differing versions of a story and forced me to continuously re-evaluate my suspicions, which kept me on my toes. A lot of people think that The Shadow of the Wind should be made into a movie (which I would love to see!), but I think that the complexity and sheer number of characters might not translate well. They all have their own personalities and quirks, which I think is best conveyed through descriptive and subtle text, and I think on film many characters could come across as confusing or one dimensional.

All I can really say about this book is read it! I know I didn't do it justice with this review. There were some more soap opera-y elements when it came to plot lines and story twists, but, overall, this is a tale about cursed love, lost youth, and a boy's obsessions. I am so glad that I dipped into Carlos Ruiz Zafrón's back catalogue. He's definitely on my authors-to-watch list.

I'll end this review with one of my favorite quotes from the book. This captures some of the feelings I often feel when in a bookstore or library browsing for something to pick up. I think many avid readers feel this way...there are so many books that will be left unread. What a very sad thought!

As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn't help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.


  1. I just got this and can't wait to read it. I didn't read your full review because I want to go into without knowing anything. I haven't found a bad review yet, so I'm thinking it's probably going to be amazing.

  2. This is one of my very favorite books, and the second installment (which is sort of a parallel story called The Angel's Game) is nothing to sneeze at either. Rumor has it that there will be a thrid in the series, and I am really anxious for that one to come out as well. Glad that you enjoyed it, and great review!

  3. Books about books always interest me, and your wonderful review makes this one sound fascinating. I love novels with a dark, Gothic feel; this is definitely going on my to-read list.
    I understand your sentiments about this one not translating so well onto the movie screen. I am always loathe to see a movie of a book that I absolutely afraid the movie will ruin the book!

  4. I have no idea why I haven't read this one yet. It always seems to get good reviews!

  5. I dying to read this book! It looks so good. This is a great review and it's moved this book to the top of my TBR.

  6. Oh, dear~! Almost everyone I know loves this book, and I just...didn't. I liked the mood. I liked the aura of the bookshop. But the story became tedious for me, and I had to keep a list of all the characters on the back inside cover, and I just lost interest (although I finished it). This, from a woman who loves Russian literature. Go figure! Thanks for visiting me today, it's so nice to meet you. Just because I don't love this particular novel, don't think I'm a big grouch. xo

  7. That one keeps languishing on the TBR shelf! There are just too many good books and not even time, sigh. I'm glad to see yet another positive review.

  8. I should really read this. I love books about books. I'm usually not a reader of dark books but I am finding reading outside of one's comfort zone can be a good thing.

  9. This sounds wonderful- so intriguing! Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and many thanks for the visit this morning.

  10. Beth - I really hope you enjoy it. Although, now I'm afraid I've hyped it way too much!

    Zibilee - The Angel's Game is already on my list! Can't wait to get my hands on it. Of course, now I think I've placed really high expectations on it. :) Thanks for letting me know that there might even be a third one coming out!

    Thebookgirl - Hopefully you'll enjoy this one as much as I did when you get around to reading it. Unless a movie is made before then and completely ruins it for you!

    reviewsbylola - It's a long but an engrossing read. Personally, the length and hype are what kept me away, but you should definitely give it a shot.

    Christa - I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this one. I really hope you enjoy it!

    Bellezza - Ha, I would never think you a big grouch! In fact, it's always refreshing to hear from someone who didn't like the book. Getting a different perspective helps me continually develop my ideas/thoughts about literature. You're right about the high character count. If I hadn't read this as quickly as I did, I think I would have been very confused.

    pagesofjulia - Ah, the problem of the ever-growing tbr pile. It really is sad to know that I will never get to read so many great books due to such silly limitations as time. :)

    Beth - It is a darker read, but I think it would make an excellent choice if you want to read outside of your comfort zone. The literary aspects as well as the easy, readable writing style are two reasons I recommend this one.

    bookspersonally - Always nice to help people learn about books that they hadn't heard of before. I find many potential reads from book bloggers. So many books, so little time!

  11. Yay! I'm so happy to see another A++++++ review of this book. It is rather fantastic, isn't it? I just loved the atmosphere Zafón put into it... so creepy. I also really enjoyed Angel's Game, but I know a lot of people didn't like it as much as SotW. I'd still give it a go though-- it's pretty great, too.


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