Review of The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

shadow of the windI went into “The Shadow of the Wind” not knowing anything about the book. I was unaware of its run away success. I picked it up after seeing it highly rated and on a good reads list of books about books.

I am a sucker for “forbidden knowledge” and stories about books that contain said “forbidden knowledge” so I was all in for “The Shadow of the Wind”. It was squarely within my wheelhouse.

Essentially, the book purports to tell the story of Daniel as he seeks to discover what happened to the author Julian Carax whose books are exceedingly rare after being mysteriously destroyed. Destroyed by a character who may or may not be the devil.

The book started off really brightly. The prose is great. Doubly so since it is translated from Spanish. I’ve seen some other people write that they felt it slipped into purple prose at times but I never felt that was the case.

During the first half of the book the prose was even so good that I felt genuinely unsettled although this may have been aided by the fact I was reading in the dark (yes I’m a big scaredy-cat).

Unfortunately, the final two thirds of the novel drop off a cliff. Instead of having the main character pursue the mystery Zafon has side characters narrate long dull flashbacks that reveal everything. These flashbacks bring the novel to a screeching halt.

On top of this Zafon repeatedly tells instead of shows and delivers clunky character development. We are told that the main character Daniel doesn’t like Bea. He sees a gorgeous woman from behind (what a perv!) and it is of course Bea. Shock! He is instantly smitten.

The rest of the plot contains similar poor storytelling. For example, we are told that we are only seeing things from one point of view and maybe just maybe, a side character guesses, Julian Carax’s father was not an evil SOB. From then on the father is a saint and the narrative treats him as such.

The most egregious example is the villain who we are essentially just told is obsessed with Julian Carax and Penelope. However, when we are shown his childhood there isn’t any build up showing him develop said obsession. Essentially the novel suggests he kills people because his mother made him wear a sailor costume to a party and he saw Julian and Penelope kissing. This of course just underlines what a poor choice it was to have everything revealed by flashbacks.

After a bright start “The Shadow of the Wind” really goes downhill. Worse of all though the writer of the book came up with the idea of a book cemetery in Francos’ Spain and didn’t base the whole book about this!

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4 thoughts on “Review of The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

  1. Nice book review 🙂 But for my mind, that was right to reveal the facts through the flashbacks of different characters. Nuria Monfort’s memories let feel and see with her eyes how the war and post war years were. If the whole story was discovered by Daniel, that period would not have been so vividly described.

    • Thanks for the smiley face. I personally thought the author could have done a better job at evoking the war/ immediate post-war years by having the flashback be less focused on just revealing the plot. But my biggest problem was that Daniel just had Nuria’s account handed to him. I wouldn’t have minded the flashback sequence so much if Daniel had done something to get the information but the fact that it was just given to him was a real letdown. I just felt the author had lost interest in the story.

  2. Yes, probably he just lost the necessary imagination to give more detective action in finding the manuscript of Nuria. That happens sometimes to the writers. But, anyhow, what’s your general opinion about the book? Did you like it?
    By the way, you wrote that the character development was clunky and gave Bea as an example. But, actually, Daniel didnt dislike Bea. He had maybe said some harsh things about her, but that’s ok for men, because sometimes when we like women, we say bad things about them :S Could be, he loved her all that time before they’ve finally met in the university? Therefore, their love story is not so abrupt and clunky.

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