After discovering a rare book called The Shadow of the Wind, Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, searches for answers about the life of the book's obscure author as he also navigates his own life.
The Shadow of the Wind opens in 1945 in Barcelona, bleak and still shattered by the Spanish Civil War. Throughout, in fact, the residue of the war's fraternal horror is the grave thematic substratum beneath capers and mystifications ... Ruiz Zafón gives us a panoply of alluring and savage personages and stories. His novel eddies in currents of passion, revenge and mysteries whose layers peel away onionlike yet persist in growing back ... We are taken on a wild ride — for a ride, we may occasionally feel — that executes its hairpin bends with breathtaking lurches. But there is more to say. Return a moment to the civil war ... García Márquez remains, with his magical swoops entirely in the service of the tangible sorrows, speculations and ingenuities of his characters; and of their resourcefulness in the face of unmanageable histories and geographies.
...at times, Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novel The Shadow of the Wind, which arrives in this country advertised as a Spanish Crimson Petal and the White, does read like a satire of epic, overwrought novels... The reader must be forgiven for looking for literary high jinks in this otherwise tiring, meandering tale ... For such a hefty book, The Shadow of the Wind contains very little direct action, and surprisingly few scenes. Much of the page-count is taken up relating second- and thirdhand family histories... Zafon's writing is so epic and vague, he fails to engage the reader even when describing real-life events ... The combined effect of the foggy setting and soggy writing is of being lost in a swamp.
Zafón convincingly conjures two worlds here. The main setting is Daniel's Barcelona, grumbling its way through the postwar dictatorship. But gradually Daniel uncovers Julián's prewar world, where aristocracy and family honour are paramount ... This celebration of small triumphs in an unjust world is at the book's core ... To [Lucia Graves's] credit, the language and mood remain intricate and beguiling — there is no awkwardness in translation... In fact, everything about The Shadow of the Wind is smooth. The language purrs along, while the plot twists and unravels with languid grace... The medley of genres (mildly supernatural thriller, against-the-odds love story and period coming-of-age saga) never quite fuses into a satisfying whole ...atmospheric, beguiling and thoroughly readable, but ultimately lacks the magic its early chapters promise.