-by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
512 pages (English ed., 2004)
MY RATING: 4/5
histrionic but fabulously riveting
"You mustn't tell anyone what you're about to see today."So were the words of Daniel Sempere's father, a dealer in antiquarian books in brooding post-civil war Barcelona, when he introduces his young son to the esoteric Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There he has his young son "rescue" any book he wishes, from a lifetime of neglect. "The Shadow of the Wind", the boy's selection, was written by author, Julian Carax, purported to have enigmatically perished in a duel shrouded in ambiguity.As Daniel grows into a young man, he becomes obsessed with the book and its mystifying author. He also comes to the realization that Carax's books are conspicuously starting to disappear - a mysterious cloaked collector has been buying them up and setting them ablaze, one by one...and he has made it very clear that he is after Daniel's copy too.
Daniel enlists the assistance of Fermín Romero de Torres - an erudite vagrant who just happens to be a former Republican emissary - in piecing together the story of Carax's life, which turns out to be a superbly macabre Gothic-style epic. As a result, Daniel and Fermín are thrust into the middle of a perilous escapade as they struggle to avoid the perils of a psychopathic fascist agent.
Some brilliant passages induced comparisons to Gabriel García Márquez or Arturo Perez-Reverte, whereas others occasionally read like a melodramatic over-sensationalized screenplay (which makes sense, as Zafon is a former screenwriter). Zafon's use of comical relief in Fermín Romero de Torres is effective in offsetting the story's oftentimes far-fetched intensity.
Nonetheless, despite all its flaws, Ruiz Zafon's post Spanish Civil War thriller will indubitably entertain.
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