The Shadow of the Wind is one of those books that seems to always be featured in book shops. I must have picked it up a dozen times to read the blurb or the first page but never quite got around to actually buying it. It’s a book about books, and while those appeal to me as a reader in theory, they are often slightly disappointing in practice.
Such was the case with The Shadow of the Wind. While the cemetery of forgotten books is a fascinating concept, Carlos Ruiz Zafón spends hardly any time there. The Shadow of the Wind isn’t so much a book about books as a book about one author and his mysterious backstory. Except, some of the mystery, specifically Lain Coubert’s identity, could be guessed hundreds of pages before it was officially revealed.
Women have an infallible instinct for knowing when a man has fallen madly in love with them, especially when the male in question is both young and a complete dunce.The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruin Zafón
Daniel and Julián simply aren’t that interesting as characters, unless you find adolescent male romances particularly compelling. Sadly, the women they fall in love with aren’t very well fleshed out, they exist mostly as aloof and unattainable examples of femininity, which is tiresome. Carlos Ruin Zafón does much better with the minor characters: Daniel’s father is sympathetic, Fermin’s story is unexpected, Bernada is sweet, and I could go on. In terms of building a large and interconnected cast of characters, Carlos Ruin Zafón has succeeded, but the story he chooses to tell with them isn’t all that inspired.
I looked again at the portrait of that couple and knew for sure that the young man was Julián Carax, smiling at me from the past, unable to see the flames that were closing in on him.The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruin Zafón
The Shadow of the Wind‘s prose is very nice, there were several poetic descriptions of Barcelona, usually at the beginnings of chapters, as well as some lovely atmospheric moments throughout. It does veer towards pretension at times, but not enough to ruin the reading experience.
Overall, The Shadow of the Wind is solidly written, and has good moments especially in Carlos Ruin Zafón’s minor characters, but the main story wasn’t something I’d especially recommend.