THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a multi-layered tale about a ten-year-old boy named Daniel Sempere, who picks up a copy of a book by an author who seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth.
Daniel and his father live above a bookstore, and their lives revolve around the love of books. One day, his father takes him to a secret place called "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books," and it is that day when young Daniel discovers the book that will change the course of his entire life. "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax beckons to Daniel, and after he has devoured the entire book and read every single word on its pages, he decides that he needs to learn more about this author who wrote such a wonderful story.
What Daniel soon discovers is that the author has disappeared, and so have all his published books. Daniel's copy of "The Shadow of the Wind" seems to be the only one left in existence. His curiosity gets the best of him, and soon Daniel is on a mission to find out what has happened to the missing books. As he begins to snoop around town asking questions, he slowly discovers Julian's story.
Daniel's adventures in the search for Julian Carax introduce him to many engaging and fascinating characters, some of whom will lead him to his answers about the missing author. Lain Coubert, an actual character from Julian's book, approaches the young boy in order to take away Daniel's copy of the book. Fermin Romero de Torres, who starts out as a homeless man, ends up becoming Daniel's best friend. Gustavo Barcelo, a local booktrader and expert on Julian Carax, helps open up a New World to Daniel. An important early figure in the novel is the blind Clara Barcelo, the niece of Gustavo Barcelo. At the ripe age of ten, Daniel falls in love with Clara, despite the difference in their ages, and he makes any excuse to visit the beautiful girl, who only sees him as a young friend. These and many other characters help make this novel a unique adventure as well as a fascinating read.
Zafon's novel also takes on many layers, as it follows Daniel's life as he ages from young boy to adult, while at the same time Julian's story is woven into Daniel's. The book goes back and forth between the two main characters, depending on who is narrating the story at that point.
There are elements of magical realism in this novel, and not surprisingly it has been compared to the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, among other authors. Social commentaries are dropped here and there, such as observations on the advent of the television being the death of reading and society as we know it. The setting of the end of the Spanish Civil War is always lurking in the background, yet it does not overtake the story. The main theme of the love of books remains the focus, as well as the multi-layered tale of Daniel and Julian's life story.
While there are many subplots going on at any given time, everything points back to the books of Julian Carax and Daniel's need to protect the last surviving book and find out as much as he can about the author. The more he learns, the more his life is in danger.
Daniel and Julian's lives parallel each other in some ways, although this will not be obvious to some until the very end. Daniel's admiration for Julian Carax will take him to places and to people he never would have had the pleasure to experience. His becomes a life filled with excitement, danger, murder and intrigue, and of course there is a bit of love and romance as well. The reader also will see how similar Daniel is to the elusive Julian, and that is the magic behind Zafon's THE SHADOW OF THE WIND.
THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a story within a story within a story. Still, the plots remain intact as Zafon writes about Daniel's search for the answers to Julian's mystery, the many characters who fill these pages, and the story of Daniel Sempere, a boy who loves books. This reviewer feels it has something for everybody; and although it seems to go on a bit too long at times, overall it is a wonderfully satisfying novel, making it a four-star winner.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton on January 31, 2005
The Shadow of the Wind