Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Page #: 486
Name and # of Series: Book 1 in El Cementerio de los Libros Olvidados

Book Blurb: Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

It's not a coincidence that this book is my very first blog review. The minute that I started reading it I just knew that I had to talk about it to anyone and everyone that would listen. The Shadow of the Wind wholly deserves the 5 star rating that I gave it and maybe bonus points for being so much better than I expected when I bought the book.

It has been quite a long time since I've read such an amazing adult novel and it's a refreshing change from the disappointing adult books I've read of late. The concept drew me in immediately because who doesn't want to read a book about characters whose lives are also affected by the written word. Not to mention the fact that the edition I own has a cover and spine printed to look like an old leather bound book, which is AWESOME and got my attention the moment I saw it.

The prose is wonderfully written and has such great description, which is completely shocking considering this was translated from Spanish. Normally some books lose their quality in translation, so I think we should all give props to the translator, Lucia Graves. In my mind I could completely envision post war Barcelona and I desperately wished that The Cemetery of Forgotten Books (the title of the series for all those who don't understand Spanish) actually existed.

In addition to the beautiful writing style, this book is full of perfect lines that make memorable quotes. For example on page 484 Daniel recalls something Bea (his romantic interest and best friend's sister) said: "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."

How completely true and amazing is that?!!?!?!?!

As for the tempo and plot of the book, it isn't fast-paced. In any other book that would be an aspect that I would complain about for hours, but here it completely works. The story never gets stagnant; it just skillfully and delicately unfolds. Had this been a plot driven book about Daniel discovering the mystery of Julian Carax's past, I don't think I would have enjoyed it quite so much.

Another aspect that firmly plants this book in the 5 star category is Daniel's point of view/narration. What Zafron did perfectly was give his character a unique voice that made him engaging and relatable. I don't know about you, but I could see a little of myself in Daniel and I bet other book lovers will as well. Not the whole navigating the transition from child to teenage boy (which was great character development by the way), but discovering a book and possessing the need to know more about the author. When I was in elementary school, I discovered a love of Roald Dahl and by the time I hit middle school I had to know more about the author whose words gave me so much entertainment, so I read his biographies Boy and Going Solo. The same goes for Agatha Christie, only I went farther by choosing her life as the topic of my 9th grade research paper. This similarity was what kept me so interested in Daniel's story and Julian's for that matter...which brings me to my next point.

I loved the subtle similarities between Daniel and Julian. From their difficult romantic relationships and the threat of being drafted into the army right down to them both possessing the same exact pen their lives seem to mirror each other. Their relationship is more than just a reader obsessed with a mysterious author.

By the time I reached the end of the book I realized that I was interested in more than just the gothic toned mystery of Julian's life and the burning of his books. I cared about the numerous characters and how their lives progressed, thus proving again that fantastic books are character driven with an intriguing plotline to back it up.

As soon as I can I will most definitely be picking up the sequels to The Shadow of the Wind and reading them as fast as possible. I highly recommend that you read this book. You won't regret it.