Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafón

the shadow of the wind laying flat on a bookshelf

The Shadow of the Wind is one of those books that I’ve seen around for so many years, it feels synonymous with much of the online book community. I don’t remember how this got on my bookshelves, but it’s been there for at least a few years. 

As I made friends in the Bookstagram space, I saw two people posting about The Shadow of the Wind consistently – Marissa (@mareliterarum) and Liv (@storiesforcoffee). Both referred to this as one of their favorite books. And though their reading tastes are quite different from mine, I do trust them with recommendations.

One of Olivia’s posts solidified my intention to read it, and it became part of my October 2021 TBR.

Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Format: Paperback
Pages: 486
Genre: Historical fiction

Book 25 of 2021
Reading Time: 7hrs 31mins
Date Finished: October 19, 2021

Content Warnings: Domestic violence, homophobia, abuse, stalking, physical violence, minor disturbing scenes, attempted murder, murder

What Worked For Me: Historical setting, gorgeous writing, interwoven mystery
What Didn’t Work For Me: Male character thinking with his dick instead of his brain

4.5/5

This book has some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve ever read. For someone who doesn’t usually like flowery or lyrical writing, I loved how it worked in this story. It didn’t feel like the words were trying to be pretentious. Rather, it added to the slightly magical way the whole story is shaped and told to us. The writing had its own magic, used to emphasize the way books themselves are a special magic.

It was an incredibly vibrant and highly visual way to make the setting and characters come alive. Many times, I felt like I was there with them, experiencing what they did, living their lives with them. The story felt to me like it was on the verge of coming alive, and I loved that.

Going into this, I didn’t realize how complex and rich the story was. There are so many extra layers, stories within stories, that slowly unravel as the book goes on. What I thought I knew of the premise was only the tip of a wonderful iceberg. I found myself so invested that I nearly shouted at the characters on a few occasions because it felt like they couldn’t understand their mistakes in the way I could.

Every time a subplot started to take over, something more complex would unfold to reveal how everything was really connected. How the seeds were planted before I even realized they were there. And no matter how intense things were, Zafón always managed to ramp it up even more.

Yet, it never felt overwhelming. It was never too much. I never found myself thinking that things couldn’t be resolved because I knew that there was such careful planning and intentionality that went into the story. Every new thing thrown in or reveal would find a place to fit and make sense in the end. That’s what made the reading process so rewarding.

There was one twist that I figured out and got mad at myself for. It almost never happens that I’m mad at myself for guessing the plot twist, but in this case, I was sad that I didn’t get the chance to be surprised when it fell into place and was revealed. I’m sure that plenty of other readers got to be shocked, and I wish I was part of that group. Curse my mystery-trained brain for guessing it way earlier than I should have.

The main thing I struggled with was the romance between the main character, Daniel, and his love interest. Though it was meant to mirror another relationship, theirs felt like it came out of nowhere and intensified for zero reason. One minute they were saying hi and the next, she was disobeying her parents to run off with Daniel. I had a hard time believing that the relationship had any substance or real attraction.

If I could have changed something, I would have given Daniel’s romance more time to really bloom and establish itself as something more than a teenage boy thinking with his dick, which is what it mostly felt like. I wanted to feel like I could see it happening, but I kept wishing they would end things so the book could get interesting again. All that happened while they were together was young moping and pining, which is was having none of.

But I did enjoy it. The ending was mostly satisfactory except that I had to read about the romance’s progression while still strongly disliking it. Everything else came together so neatly and perfectly. None of my questions went unanswered. I was thrilled to see that even though it all closed out nicely, there was room for a sequel.

Knowing that there are three more books in the series, I hope to find matching covers and add them to my bookshelves soon. I can’t wait to see what happens next, how the story continues to build and grow.

It’s a shame that Zafón has passed since writing this series. I would have loved to have read his work when he was still around. Picking up the book even a year earlier would have given me the chance to interact with him online, rather than realizing that I can only praise him and his work after the fact.

This is one of those books that I find myself thinking about randomly, missing the way the words come together to tell the story. It reminded me why I used to love reading historical fiction and how much there still is to learn about the world through its past.

For anyone who loves stories that feel slightly magical, stories that are richly complex, stories that feel like they could come to life at any moment, this is a book to pick up. I’m so glad I finally listened to Marissa and Liv. It was all worth it and now I have to find the sequels.

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