Book Review: "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Luis Zafón

I’ve grown up with a love for books. I’ve read every type of book imaginable, from essay compilations to fantasy. And so, when my high school didn’t have a book club, I felt it was my responsibility to start one. It was hard to find books to read—everyone wanted to read something different, and I was championing a sort of “democracy” in order to please the greatest number of people. But come senior year, when senioritis was beginning to set in, this book was a beautiful solution to both end that democracy, and keep my club alive.

Having read too many books, you can imagine I’ve come across some horrible ones. Some, for example, keep trying to follow the tired dystopian that only dissolves into cringe-worthy love triangles. And, you know what? It’s so hard to come up with something new, so some part of me wants to only half-blame the authors of those half-baked disasters. But, Carlos Luis Zafón took age-old elements that have always existed and created something entirely new in his novel, The Shadow of the Wind.

Carlos Luis Zafón

I’m going to leave the summary for this book to Goodreads, because I can’t guarantee that I won’t butcher it. Basically, this novel ends up redefining genre. Because, what is it? It is historical fiction that carries the air and plot of a mystery, a thriller, and a romance. It is a boy named Daniel Sempere trying to discover his own history and that of his loved ones. His life leads parallel with another person’s—an author named Julian Carax—whose books he finds enchanting, but which are being destroyed systematically. This leads Daniel into a spiral of trying to understand love, and also the gaping absence of it.

This book does so much for its readers.

It allows us to reimagine our own worlds with a little bit more of that darkness and magic. It allows us, especially those of us who are both readers and writers, to rethink what writing means to us:

“A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.”

Gothic Quarter, Barcelona

However, the book, just as any other, is not without its flaws. For example, I’ve found that the female characters were often one-dimensional, seen and developed only through the eyes of Daniel, a teenage boy. They’re known mostly for their physical beauty rather than their existence. Not only that, but the villain was cut-and-dry villainous. There was little complexity to him, except perhaps the bit of bitterness from his middle-school crush being stolen from under his nose and the age-old, youth-driven rivalry. Now, maybe some people would enjoy a villain without major complications. It’s tidy to finish him off, isn’t it? But lots of readers demand more from the bad guys

I would definitely recommend this book, as it’s written with care and beauty but, it’s also important to realize and acknowledge the flaws within its story and narration.

Despite it all, as with any book by any author, written at any age:

“Books are mirrors - you only see in them what you already have inside you.”

 

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