In post-World War II Barcelona, young Daniel is taken by his bookseller father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a massive sanctuary where books are guarded from oblivion. Told to choose one book to protect, he selects The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. He reads it, loves it, and soon learns it is both very valuable and very much in danger because someone is determinedly burning every copy of every book written by the obscure Carax. To call this book–Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind– old-fashioned is to mean it in the best way. It’s big, chock-full of unusual characters, and strong in its sense of place. Daniel’s initiation into the mysteries of adulthood is given the same weight as the mystery of the book-burner.
The best summary of my reactions I can come up with: if a Korean suspense drama was sprinkled with Gothic elements and turned into a Spanish novel, The Shadow of the Wind would be it. There’s a scandalously complex plot with characters that intersect with one another and a few plot twists thrown in for good measure. I went into this novel with high expectations, everyone seemed to proclaim it’s greatness. I wanted to start the series so that I could read its lauded third installment that just released without being lost: The Prisoner of Heaven. However, despite being entranced in the delightfully complex mystery and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, I can’t bring myself to wholeheartedly recommend it. Partly because its pacing is too slow for my liking in the first third, some characters falling flat, and the denouement disappointing.
I’d Never Guess it was a Translation:
I am usually hesitant to read translations, fearing that a beautiful literary masterpiece will be skinned bare of its artistic elements into a stoic, mundane read. I’m glad The Shadow of the Wind didn’t join that party. I’m not sure how much was lost in translation–unfortunately, my Spanish comprehension ends at ¿Cómo estás? and I still haven’t figured out how to roll my r’s–but I could’ve been easily fooled that this was the original. Props to Lucia Graves!