Monday, December 10, 2012

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafón ✰✰✰✰✰

Finally!  This book has suffered from the curse of ownership, but this month all of my reading challenges aligned, and it was dusted off and read.  To all of you who have told me so many times that I would love it-you were right, and to all of you who have not yet picked it up-you really should.
The Shadow of the Wind traces two lives, which run along a parallel course, some ten years apart-those of a young bookseller, Daniel Sempere, and an aspiring author, Julian Carax, who lived and wrote a decade earlier, and whom Daniel discovers and becomes fascinated by to an unusual degree.  As he delves into the life of his mysterious author, Daniel’s life spirals out of his hands, bringing peril to those he loves.  However, he comes to realize that often the disappeared do not wish to be found, but to redeem love and to enact vengeance they will come forth, in their own time and on their own terms.

In addition to the two main characters, there is a full list of supporting cast, all of whom feel well defined and necessary to the plot.  Recently, on one of my online groups, we had a discussion about characters in thrillers, and how characterization is often sacrificed to keep the plot moving at a brisk pace.  That is certainly not the case here.

This novel is consistently listed as a thriller, but some disagree.  I feel that the middle section does slow down quite a bit, as the reader is fed a lot of the characters’ backstories during that section of the book.  However, the final third of the novel absolutely flies as the plot begins to thicken and the convergence of the characters’ lives begins.

The element which absolutely sets this novel apart, aside from its finely, subtly crafted sub-plots that ultimately weave so effortlessly together, is the stunning beauty of its prose.  I feel that some credit must surely also be given to the work of the translator, Lucia Graves, who translated Zafón’s work from the original Spanish into English.  Her translation has a wondrous cadence that defies the reader to believe the novel was not written in English to begin with.  It is an absolute tour de force of translation.

Overall, I think that this is the rare thriller that manages to combine plot, characterization, and gorgeous prose into one lovely literary package, and as such, it comes with my five star recommendation.  I will certainly be reading the newly released sequel, The Prisoner of Heaven.

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