Title: The Shadow of the Wind

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Date Finished: 19/05/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I was given this book by my friend Miles (who is new to book blogging over at http://bibliomiles.tumblr.com/ ) for my birthday last year and it has finally reached the beginning of my TBR shelf.  I didn’t know what to expect from the novel, as I had never heard of it nor the author but since the blurb introduced it as a literary-orientated thriller, and Miles said it was great, I thought it was definitely worth a read.

I was right.

The plot is intricate and definitely ensnared me quickly.  The story is a mystery within a mystery and there are countless parallels between the enigma of Julian Carax, a vanished author who someone seems out to obliterate all meaning of, and Daniel Sempere, the narrator.  We follow Daniel’s story as he tries to uncover the dark mysteries surrounding Carax and wait, biting our nails as he comes across all manner of unpleasant characters.  The plot is brilliant and this is one of those holiday reads that you really can’t put down.

Now, the characters are probably the least impressive aspect of this book for me, and essentially why I gave it a 4/5 and not a 5/5.  Don’t get me wrong, many are unforgettable and complex, but they just all seemed a bit unrealistic.  The intense desire for vengeance they all had was questionable.  Also, the way they are all happy to go looking for horrific characters at night, on their own, in deserted and disgusting places was very unrealistic.  However, this is pretty much the essence of a thriller, so maybe it is an issue I have with the whole genre, as opposed to this book specifically.

One aspect of this novel that really stood out for me, was the fantastic prose.  I remember when I started a week or two ago, I described it as ‘a really well written Dan Brown’.  And it’s true – the prose is sophisticated and mature.  What you have to bear in mind, though, is that this is a work-in-translation – the original is written in Spanish.  Therefore, huge appreciation must go to Lucia Graves, the translator – I was seriously impressed.

The setting is very interesting too.  Barcelona is somewhere I haven’t yet visited, although my sister went with school last year and really enjoyed herself.  Also, this is in post-civil-war Barcelona and, considering we don’t study anything about the Spanish Civil War at school, I was completely clueless as to what it was like.  That probably contributed to my enjoyment of this book, as I was really curious.

All in all, this book is right at the top of the thriller genre, so if that’s your thing, pick up a copy!  Even for those of you who don’t particularly read thrillers, there is actually a lot more to this book like the setting in Barcelona and aspects of humour, romance and literature that guarantees you will find something you like.  A PERFECT holiday read, I think.