Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles. To this library, a man brings his ten-year-old son Daniel, one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to chose one book and from the dusty shelves pulls The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julián Carax and to save those he left behind.
First of all I must mention that I will remain forever thankful to a friend that plucked this out of hundreds of choices for me to read, otherwise it would have been left gathering dust on my shelves; a tragic waste for certain.
The novel piqued my interest immediately when I discovered it were to be a novel about novels, but it should be noted that it works on so many more different levels. From the moment Daniel stumbles upon one of Carax’s books, he becomes caught up in a world more terrible than he could have ever imagined. His instant connection with the book draws him in, and from then on he is captured and entangled by the author’s story, which won’t let him go; he feels the need to discover the truth behind the mysterious Julián Carax.
On his journey he suffers unrequited love, pain and misery, as he begins to grow up and see the world in a different light. From the loss of his best friend, who begins to hate him; the love of Bea, of Clara, the discovery of passion and of lust, Daniel in a sense becomes out of his depths. He finds hope and inspiration in a beggar he finds on the streets; a beggar that becomes an acquaintance, a friend, and who has his own story to tell.
Yet it is not just he that searches endlessly for the truth surrounding Carax. A mysterious, dark figure stalks the shadows, questioning book-stores and collectors alike for information on Julián’s novels. He seeks them not to read, but to destroy; he longs to burn and eradicate the stories of Carax forever, and it is unclear why. The past holds the answers to all, and for all the efforts of some, it struggles to remain buried.
Those that were once friends, now turned evil; death, destruction and murder litters the streets. Daniel is in more danger than he could possibly ever know; for every person that works with him, another more sinister conspires against. And yet it is a connection that can’t be broken; Daniel must search onwards. Will he discover the truth behind the eerie Julián Carax?
In essence, this novel was fantastic; a wonderfully written plot integrated with brilliant characters that each stood out individually for me. The story is an ambiguous one; unanswered questions lead to sub-plots, which lead to further seemingly endless mysterious that have the readers guessing and wondering throughout. The way Zafón weaves the parallels into the different characters’ journeys is clever, and often I found myself surprised at revelations that I was definitely not expecting.
The observant readers may guess some twists, but it seems that these turns will not stop right until the very last page, and the fast-paced action will carry you to that destination before you even realise the hours have past. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good fast-paced mystery novel that ultimately has you questioning everything, and everyone.