30 April 2012

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2001)

The Shadow of the Wind is the first book in Carlos Ruiz Zafón loose tetralogy Barcelona Cycle, but is set before the second book, The Angel's Game. It’s a thriller (but not in the real sense of the word) about books and the mysteries that they sometimes create. Daniel Sempere is 10 years-old when he is led by his father into the back streets of Barcelona where  the Cemetery of Lost Books - a mausoleum for out-of-print works, salvaged by the bibliophiles of the city- lies. Sempere discovers a book called The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax, which captures his young imagination. But when he investigates this unknown author, he finds out that his is the last surviving copy, as a mysterious figure called Laín Coubert has dedicated himself to eradicating Carax's work completely. But in Carax's book, Laín Coubert is the name of the Devil..

It’s a slow thriller, but still interesting as we get a detailed history of Spain and its people. Still, while the prose is great, the voice strong, on the whole the book never seems to ably payoff its premise. Ruiz Zafrón creates a book with multiple genres wedged in –vaguely thriller like, with supernatural aspects, a love story, a coming of age tale. Then there is the dues ex machine ending that sort of halts the book completely –so much so, it reminded me of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo’s misbegotten ending that almost made me not want to continue.. 

Still, the novel is moody, appealing and thoroughly readable, but ultimately lacks the magic its early chapters promised.The third book of the series, Prisoner of Heaven, will be released on July 10.

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