By Henry Smith
I was first drawn to The Shadow of the Wind when a friend recommended it to me. I had never heard of the author Carlos Ruiz Zafon and I was eager to learn more. It struck me to learn that his main influences stem from 19th century classics, crime fiction and noir authors. I was intrigued to find out how Zafon could combine certain elements of these genres to weave a tale of drama, intensity and passion.
The Shadow of the Wind was published in 2001 and it is the first novel by Zafon aimed at an adult audience. Since then the book has been published in 45 countries and translated into 40 different languages, such is the scope of readership and interest for this astounding novel. The success has propelled Zafon to be named the most successful contemporary Spanish novelist around today. The critical acclaim was a great teaser for me before I begun the novel and with expectations high, I started a journey I will never forget.
The first thing to say is that The Shadow of the Wind bullies you into not being able to put it down. Calling the book a page turner is a huge understatement. Zafon has managed, on his maiden voyage of senior novel-writing, to build a world so engrossing that creating an image of Barcelona and its winding, dark and historical lanes is easy and joyful.
Daniel Sempere is our main protagonist, a young man who at ten years old is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his father. There, Daniel discovers a book that draws him in like the song of the sirens, The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. Soon after, nefarious characters of all shapes and sizes seem to gather an unhealthy obsession with Daniels choice. What follows is a heart-stopping tale of epic proportions to find out who and where Julian Carax is and why he left such a trail of conspiracy and death in his wake.
I feel this is a book that will satisfy even the hardest to please. Some may be drawn to the relentless pace of the story whilst others may savour the moments of raw beauty and emotion that Zafon seems to bleed onto the pages. The one constant that remains throughout reading this book is that you will lose track of time and become completely lost in this world from the brilliant mind of Zafon. I implore all fans of masterful storytelling to pick up a copy of this instant classic.