Book Review: La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

25 Jun

For anyone who follows my WWW Wednesday posts, you know how long I’ve been reading La Sombra del Viento. It’s been a journey through this epic Spanish story and I’m glad to have read it in the original language. Yes, at the expense of it taking six months. The read graph from Goodreads is really incredible (included below). But now it’s over. And truthfully, I’m not sure how good of a review I can give. So I got a beer and we’ll see how it goes.

Cover image via

Cover image via

La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Summary from Goodreads:

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

I hope I’m remembering the middle of the book well. The beginning, Daniel’s story with Clara, and the ending when we find out the truth are very memorable. However, there was a lot in the middle that didn’t affect the overall plot very much and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten a lot of it. I loved the last 150 pages of this book, which unsurprisingly I flew through. I loved the mystery that had been building around me and how wonderfully everything I thought I knew crashed down. I loved the romance, revenge, murder, all of it. More than anything, I loved how Daniel’s life mirrored Carax’s youth and how the two reacted to this; how they wanted things to be different yet the same between them. It was a really beautiful story, thought it could have gone without some of the fluff in the middle.

Whenever there is a group of friends in a book, it’s important to make them all stand out and create unique characters. (Side note, this is part of what I loved so much about The Round House.) Carax, Fumero, Ramos, Moliner, and Aldaya were a great group to tell the story. And the parallels between Carax/Aldaya and Daniel/Tomas were awesome. I believed each boy as a separate character and understood his motivations and reasons for feeling a certain way about Carax/Daniel. Fermin was a bit much for me, but I can get over that. And Clara was a bit hard to buy into, but again the characters surrounding them were so strong that I can forget about my few misgivings and focus on the great characterization of the main storytellers.

Reading chart via Goodreads

Reading chart via Goodreads

Nuria was my favorite character. Her letter is what drew me into the book completely. She suffered so much for a man who didn’t even love her and she did it all without complaining. I felt bad for her and I idolized her at the same time. She was a strong and weak person at the same time. And she was the only one who knew all the secrets everyone was keeping. She was the lynchpin in a story she never wanted to be a part of. I thought she was a great person to tell Carax’s story and I really enjoyed how she told it.

I most related to Daniel. Like him, I love stories and books and his whole adventure was because of an author he liked. He let books take him on the ultimate adventure. He also loved with his whole heart, which I think is an admirable quality. He loved Clara until she shattered his heart, and then he gave everything to Bea. I would want to be in love with someone who would do so much for me and I would like to think I’m like that person as well.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon Image via the BBC

Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Image via the BBC

As I’ve said, I liked Nuria’s storytelling. It brought the book full circle for me and got me staying up late and waking up early to finish the book. I felt like I was reading a confession thought it wasn’t her story to tell. She took everything I thought I knew and flipped it all on its head. I loved it.

I felt the middle dragged. Now that I’ve finished the novel, there were things in the middle I don’t feel helped lead Daniel to the ending or could have been skipped and we would have still arrived at the same ending. Now that I think about it, there were things at the beginning that could have been shortened as well. But overall, the book had such a wonderful impression on me that maybe none of it should be cut. All of it should be there because it was great the way it was.

Oh the ways our grudges can consume us. Aldaya died for his. Carax should have many times. And the blood on selfish hands is more than a single person can count. There were very epic themes in this book. The grudges Fumero and Carax held for years and years consumed their thoughts and actions so much that they were unable to live a full life. And Carax was so selfish that he let others suffer for what he thought would make him happy. As much as Carax is our hero, he’s also the greatest villain. I loved that about him.

Writer’s Takeaway: I liked the format Ruiz Zafon used. There was time when Daniel was young, when he was a teenager, the letter from Nuria, and later in life. These were very distinctly separated with chapters within each. It made starting a new section a little intimidating, but I still enjoyed diving in knowing that I was in the section for a long time. I hope that makes sense.

Really enjoyable with a great twist to the plot at the end. I wish I’d read it continuously. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Book Review | ThesePaperWords
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon | John Adcox


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