Review: The Shadow of the Wind

As spooky season draws to a close, are you looking for the perfect Gothic thriller to snuggle up with as the weather continues to get colder and the nights draw in? Well look no further! Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s worldwide best seller ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ has everything you could possibly ask for.

Set in Barcelona in the 1950s, Zafón takes his readers on a magical tour through the old quarters of the city and through underground trails as we follow the compelling life of the Sempere family. Only just over a decade on since the Spanish Civil War, the deep scars can still be seen both in the city itself and in its people. We are initially introduced to Senior Sempere and his son Daniel at the mere age of 11 as Senior Sempere unveils the mystical Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

“In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands.”

This underground library is enough to grab any bookworm’s attention. The incredible detail Zafón uses to describe the setting draws the reader in, forcing you to imagine every twist and turn of this maze. It is here that Daniel first comes into contact with the forgotten author Julián Carax, a mysterious fellow who seems to have slipped into the oblivion along with his literature.

This novel follows Daniel’s life as he grows up, falls in and out of lustful love and explores the city he calls home. Obsessed with his Carax novel, he seeks to find more of his work, only to learn that these books have been periodically burned across Spain, and no one knows by who. As Daniel tries to dig deeper into this mystery, he is met with the real-life version of Carax’s devil Laín Coubert. Daniel’s Coubert sneaks around in the shadows, unnoticed by all but Daniel, for this omnipresent ghost appears to be following his life. Zafón leaves the reader clutching at straws about who this ghost from the literature world could really be.

Comic relief comes in the form of homeless man the family befriend and take under their wing, Fermín Romero de Torres who always has a snippet of wisdom for anyone willing to stop and listen. The reader follows this eccentric man and as he grows to love the Sempere family so do we. But what secret past is Fermín hiding? Will he be the undoing of this small family or the making of it?

The way words are used in the novel to express emotion is so persuasive that the reader cannot help but be taken on this journey with Daniel. The story concerns itself so much with spreading the love of books that it is every literature student’s dream!

“Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”

Zafón weaves in so many subtle connections throughout the story, it will keep you hooked until the very end pages, by which point you won’t be able to wait to get your hands on the sequel ‘The Angel’s Game’.

Follow the intimate connections between this family, feel their happiness and pain, and open yourself up to a world of ghosts, murder, mystery and some of the greatest literature ever written.

Images courtesy of Wimedia Commons and Stephen Boisvert.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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