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Mystery and magic in The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, is a magical realist novel filled with suspense, secrecy and beautiful, haunting imagery. In it, Zafón constructs a unique contemporary gothic world set in 1940s Barcelona.  

The novel was published in 2001, and then translated to English in 2004 by Lucia Graves. It’s an international bestseller with millions of copies sold worldwide. 

The plot 

The Shadow of the Wind begins when a young boy named Daniel visits the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books,” a place where millions of books are protected from the outside world. Daniel’s father gives him permission to choose one novel, and within the maze of shelves, Daniel finds a book titled “The Shadow of the Wind” by Julián Carax.  

Daniel is struck by the novel and decides to inquire more about Carax. He is immediately pulled into the extensive mystery surrounding Carax’s life as he searches Barcelona for a proper explanation of who Carax was. But with each inquiry, new mysteries come to light.  

The questions surrounding Carax become even more complex as Daniel’s life becomes entangled in Carax’s: their lives seem to mirror each other with matters of unrequited love and familial complexities. Zafón seems to be hinting to the reader that the connection between Daniel and Carax is deeper than the reader initially thinks.  

A unique style 

Though his style of writing is fairly contemporary, Zafón uses themes that are conventional in 18th century gothic fiction. He writes of shadow-like beings, cavernous mansions and characters with dark, secretive pasts.  

What distinguishes Zafón from other thriller writers of the 21st century is the way his plot unravels slowly. At times it seems that he may not be able to bring all the loose ends of the plot together, but the book’s ending is sure not to disappoint readers. 

The Shadow of the Wind is wonderful for its quick paced writing, which makes it an excellent book to read during the school year. Zafón also paints a setting that is transportive, allowing the reader to briefly escape their own world.  

The landscape that Zafón describes is rich in detail and is based on real landmarks in Barcelona. These landmarks can be read about in the afterword at the end of the novel, which has photos and accompanying text descriptions. The book also includes hand-drawn maps of “Daniel’s Barcelona” that help in orienting readers as they make their way through the novel.  

While a master of plot, Zafón is also phenomenal at creating characters that are full of intrigue, mystery and depth. They’re the kind of characters readers could sit around discussing for hours, recalling details that could easily be missed or forgotten. 

All these elements make the book is a must-read. 

The Shadow of the Wind is available for loan at the Killam Memorial Library and the Halifax Central Library. 


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