Summary and book reviews of Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Shadow of the Wind

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Shadow of the Wind
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2004, 496 pages
    Jan 2005, 496 pages

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Book Summary

The international literary sensation, about a boy's quest through the secrets and shadows of postwar Barcelona for a mysterious author whose book has proved as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget.

Barcelona, 1945 - just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.

As with all astounding novels, The Shadow of the Wind sends the mind groping for comparisons—The Crimson Petal and the White? The novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte? Of Victor Hugo? Love in the Time of Cholera?—but in the end, as with all astounding novels, no comparison can suffice. As one leading Spanish reviewer wrote, "The originality of Ruiz Zafón’s voice is bombproof and displays a diabolical talent. The Shadow of the Wind announces a phenomenon in Spanish literature." An uncannily absorbing historical mystery, a heart-piercing romance, and a moving homage to the mystical power of books, The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller’s art.

Shadow of the Wind

A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept. My first thought on waking was to tell my best friend about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Tomás Aguilar was a classmate who devoted his free time and his talent to the invention of wonderfully ingenious contraptions of dubious practicality, like the aerostatic dart or the dynamo spinning top. I pictured us both, equipped with flashlights and compasses, uncovering the mysteries of those bibliographic catacombs. Who better than Tomás to share my secret? Then, remembering my promise, I decided that circumstances advised me to adopt what in detective novels is termed a different modus operandi. At noon I approached my father to quiz him about the book and about Julián Carax--both world famous, I assumed. My plan was to get my hands on his complete works and read them all by the end of the week. To my surprise, I discovered that my father, a natural-born librarian and a walking ...

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About The Book

The Shadow of the Wind is a coming-of-age tale of a young boy who, through the magic of a single book, finds a purpose greater than himself and a hero in a man he's never met. With the passion of García Márquez, the irony of Dickens, and the necromancy of Poe, Carlos Ruiz Zafón spins a web of intrigue so thick that it ensnares the reader from the very first line. The Shadow of the Wind is an ode to the art of reading, but it is also the perfect example of the all-encompassing power of a well-told story.

At the first light of dawn in postwar Barcelona, a bookseller leads his motherless son to a mysterious crypt called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This labyrinthine sanctuary houses the ...
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BookBrowse Review


Shadow of the Wind is a complex and sometimes long winded novel (480 pages) that has drawn comparisons to books such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. It combines elements of romance, mystery and crime into one big paella of a book, while also exploring many aspects of love - the love of a good book, the love of parents for their children, of unrequited, unspoken and rejected love and of love lost.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (344 words).

Media Reviews

Richard Eder, The New York Times

The melodrama and complications of Shadow, expertly translated by Lucia Graves, can approach excess, though it's a pleasurable and exceedingly well-managed excess. We are taken on a wild ride -- for a ride, we may occasionally feel -- that executes its hairpin bends with breathtaking lurches.

Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

… anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should.

Entertainment Weekly

[T]here is no question that Wind is wondrous.... [M]asterful, meticulous plotting and extraordinary control over language.... The Shadow of the Wind is ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero.

Library Journal - Lawrence Olszewski

This complex, Byzantine, at times longwinded work, which spent more than 60 weeks on Spain's best sellers list, throws together mystery, romance, and crime into one big mix like an olla podrida....Even the plot and characters of Carax's fictitious work are interwoven into this meticulously crafted mosaic.

Publishers Weekly

Ruiz Zafón strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors...Yet the colorful cast of characters, the gothic turns and the straining for effect only give the book the feel of para-literature or the Hollywood version of a great 19th-century novel.

Kirkus Reviews

The Shadow of the Wind will keep you up nights-and it'll be time well spent. Absolutely marvelous.

El Pais

The publishing phenomenon of the last year and a half.

La Vanguardia

Zafónmania... A thriller, a historical novel and a comedy of manners, but above all, the story of a tragic love...with great narrative skill, the author interweaves his plots and enigmas, like a set of Russian dolls in an unforgettable story about the secrets of the heart and the enchantment of books, maintaining the suspense right to the very last page.

La Razon

As magnetic as The Dumas Club, as unsettling as The Mystery of the Haunted Crypt­ and with a plot as complex and well rounded as The Name of The Rose - to be recommended one hundred percent.

Suddeutsche Zeitung

I was enthralled by Zafón's book and it gave me many hours of great delight. Not only because the story is set in a book shop, not only because it is about the search and the hunt for books and there is a library of forgotten books to be discovered, but because The Shadow of the Wind is suspenseful like a thriller, poetic like a love story, sometimes mysterious like its title, and because it describes the characters and the storyline so wonderfully that the reader wants to be a part of it. A paean to reading and to the love of books.

Westdeutscher Rundfunk

What a magnificent labyrinth a book can be... the Spanish author keeps us at it with his intense narrative style and delivers to the full what one would call a wonderfully good read... Already one talks of Zafónmania. Now it is your turn.

Reader Reviews


Ohhhh...outstanding...loved it
I would give the Shadow of the Wind more than ten stars if that were possible...this is my all-favorite book. I didn't want it to end. I loved all the twists and turns and connections of the characters and the surprise letter at the end that Nuria...   Read More


The Shadow of the Wind
This book was amazing! I really loved it. It was enthralling with a magical ending that just took your breath away when the whole story unraveled. Definitely is a must read on everyones list.


The Shadows of The Wind
A book that flows like poetry, from the descriptive language used for Barcelona to the characters so full of life that you feel a sense of loss when you finish the book. I've read this book twice, lost 2 copies to friends and bought a copy for my ...   Read More


Best book I read in 2007
I'd put off reading this novel for awhile, since I typically have trouble concentrating on books that have been translated from another language. It sat on my shelf for about two years, until I got tired of my reading friends telling me to stop ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

There was no special fanfare when Spanish publisher, Planeta, published Carlos Ruiz Zafón's fifth book (but his first for adults) The Shadow of the Wind, in 2002.  However, it  took off, spending more than 60 weeks on the bestseller lists in Spain, and has now been translated into 20 languages.  Zafón says that the young adult novel was 'never my natural genre' (as far as I can see, none of his earlier works are available in English).

The paradox of The Shadow of the Wind, according to Ruiz Zafón, is that it could only have been ...

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