Sunday, January 07, 2007

Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

With the help of various colourful characters, including a voluble anti-fascist ex-spy, Daniel starts trying to piece together the story of Carax's life, which turns out to be a splendidly morbid Gothic melodrama. He also finds love with his best friend's gorgeous sister, who is engaged to a charmless Francoist, and incurs the wrath of her rich, reactionary dad. A psychopathic fascist cop starts taking an interest in Daniel's activities, and it soon becomes clear that Carax's fate is a matter of more than scholarly interest to everyone Daniel meets on his perilous trail.

With its bookish outer story and hints of the supernatural, The Shadow of the Wind has inevitably been compared to Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Dumas Club. Zafon's brow is less high than Perez-Reverte's, and his puzzles are less ingenious, but his story is impressively well-rounded.

Humour, horror, politics and romance are skilfully deployed, and although the cardinal plot-twists aren't hard to guess, the overall effect is hugely satisfying. Zafon, a former screenwriter, is particularly good at contrast and pacing: the book's 400 pages whip past with incredible speed.
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