The Shadow of the Wind is many things. Through its twists and turns, it tells a story both mysterious and romantic, chilling and comedic. If you loved Umineko, and seek more stories in the same vein, The Shadow of the Wind is a fine place to start.
One night, Daniel’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, tucked away in the alleys of Fascist-dominated Spain. Daniel may choose any single book from it’s endless bookcases, on the condition that he protect it with his life. The Shadow of the Wind, last remaining copy of a novel by obscure author Julian Carax, catches his attention. Daniel’s quest to protect the book is complicated by the fact that a man has been tracking down copies of Julian Carax’s books, and burning every single one. Even odder, this mysterious figure claims the name of “Lain Couthbert,” The Shadow of the Wind‘s arch-villain.
The book focuses on two stories, one in the past and one in the present. In the past, we follow as the tragic tale of Julian Carax is slowly unraveled. In the present, Daniel deals with the repercussions of that unraveling, as well as his own tale of budding love and misplaced passion.
The Shadow of the Wind is a gloriously overstuffed story. It seems there’s a Gothic back story behind everyone of it’s characters, even if they’ll be exiting the story’s stage in a few pages. Some of them are revisited, luckily, in the book’s two sequels The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. If there’s any real testament to Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s skill as a writer, it’s this: that he can stuff it with so much drama without the reader rolling their eyes at how overwrought it is. Instead of wooden set pieces, the characters feel like actual people, who want to laugh and love just the same.
Even though the book drips with atmosphere from the beginning, it can take awhile for the real narrative to build steam. The connection between Daniel and Julian Carax’s stories can seem a bit forced until half-way through the book. Sometimes the book’s most brilliant parts are also the shortest. Still, it’s a gripping book, and I recommend it highly.