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.
Normally I try to maintain a semblance of eloquence in my reviews, but it’s been three days since I finished The Shadow of the Wind and all I have left to say is this book was dumb. Yes, I understand that “dumb” is the word 5-year-olds use to insult each other as their mothers scold, “Be nice!” but I have no other way to describe this book nor any desire to search for another way to describe it. It was boring, incredibly overlong, sexist, and overall unfeeling.
Despite a decent mystery (although as it unravels it becomes more and more mundane, until it’s no longer “mysterious” but, once again, merely dumb), I cared nothing about what happened here. And it showed—the farther I read, the faster I read, simply to finish and move on to something newer and better. The characters here are caricatures. It’s as if Zafon endowed them with one defining personality trait and then announced “Done!” Accordingly, they’re incapable of attracting our sympathy, problematic for a novel whose plot spins on the sympathetic interactions between characters.
All my least favorite things are here: love stories that become True Love before the characters have exchanged two words; a villain who is villainous because he is a villain who is villainous; a latent, insidious form of sexism where women are never agents and there are about 100 too many comments on their bodies and about 100 too few comments on any other aspect of their existence; and worst of all, an awesome concept—a Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where the sole remaining copies of literature go to die/rest in peace—that serves as scenery, not a motor for story.
Blah blah blah. I see Zafon popped another two of these out to complete an interconnected series. If I can give him one recompense, it’s for making the first one so bad that I’m not obliged to suffer through two more. Thank you, Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
1 out of 5 stars