In the opening pages, Daniel is taken by his father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in Barcelona, and told that he can choose just one book to take away. Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, and falls in love with the story immediately. But as the years pass, Daniel notices that others are obsessed with Carax and his novels too, and that events from the story are starting to blur with real life. With the help of his friend Fermin, who is recovering from being tortured during the Spanish Civil War, Daniel embarks on a quest to uncover the mystery surrounding Fermin.
The Shadow of the Wind is an enjoyable book. It's fast paced and full of unexpected twists and turns, that will keep you guessing. I thought I had several elements of the book worked out, only for Zafon to turn things on their head and surprise me yet again. The whole ending section came as a shock, and I love it when that happens, as it makes the reading experience that bit more gripping. The gothic atmosphere of twentieth century Barcelona is wonderful, and there's just a hint of magic pervading the whole novel, which makes it a delight to read.
Ultimately, The Shadow of the Wind suffers from having an amazing opening section, that the rest of the book can't quite live up to. The passages where Daniel visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books are just wonderful, full of the joy of reading. I could spend hours just imagining the kind of books that I might find there;
"A labyrinth of passage-ways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive, woven with tunnels, steps, platforms and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry."
Although the rest of the novel is very good, there's nothing quite like that opening chapter, and this is the part I will remember in the future. Consequently, I felt a bit let down by the rest of the story. Another issue I had is that the middle section felt bloated compared to the middle and end, as the mystery develops more slowly. Sometimes I found it hard to keep track of all the different characters, especially as Daniel and Carax's lives began to parallel. Their love stories in particular were very similar, and I kept getting the two ladies confused, as they may as well have been one person.
I'm glad that I finally read The Shadow of the Wind. It's a magical book full of twists and turns, that is sure to please anyone who likes gothic fiction. It's not earned a place amongst my favourites, but it was a very enjoyable way to spend a few evenings.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: In Spanish, 2002
Score: 4 out of 5
TBR 2014: Book 2/12