The Shadow of the Wind. Carlos Zafon

Shadow of the Wind. Carlos Ruiz Zafon. At Argo.
 
I know at least one person that claims this is the best book he ever read and another that claims it is an absolute must read. Its star-power made me leary and so it has taken me a long time to get around to reading it. The family and I were off to a quiet long weekend punctuated by a fireplace and the superbowl and I needed something engrossing and easy to read. The time for Zafon’s mystery had arrived. I will not say it is one of the best books ever because it was about 15% too long and contains at least one storyline that is of no real use but it was a great book to read on vacation.
 
First the good: The narrative is engrossing. Daniel is 10 years old and the son of a used book dealer in Barcelona when he encounters the book called “Shadow of the Wind” by Julian Carax. He then learns that despite his great literary merit Mr. Carax never had the sales he deserved. To make matters worse someone is going around burning all the copies of the books that can be found. This adds an element of danger to the story as you begin to hope Daniel will remain safe. The book follows Daniel and a (too-large) cast of characters as he tries over the course of several years to unwrap the story. The story includes everything from prostitutes to nuns, loving of all sorts (homosexual, incestual, etc.) it has wealthy families and poor ones. You name it youll find it here. It is a little like a blockbuster movie trying to fit all the clichés in to make sure everyone gets what they wanted, but it works well, like you favorite Hollywood movie.
 
The start of the novel is hauntingly beautiful and makes you want to keep readin and get to know Daniel better. The ending was satisfying and worth waiting for. The beginning and the ending demonstrate what this book almost was and what I think my friends focus on. These certainly combine to make the book worth your time.
 
The bad: The story is much too long and drags throughout the middle. There are pointless characters that slow the book down and are only there to lead you down the wrong path in your mystery solving. Most of the characters in the book are like robots. They are there to divulge their own little bit of the mystery and nothing more. They are unreal and appear to have no life outside of the story. This novel would have been better if more atttention was given to the gaggle of characters that float within it. The flatness of the characters renders the book very close to a basic mystery novel that just has a neat premise revolving around a book. Which is annoying because other characters fly off the page and serve little purpose in the mystery, and by doing so suggest that Zafon could have rendered the characters of his novel much more completely.
 
I do not read a lot of mystery novels because they either have terrribly low quality of writing (that is right James Patterson and Dan brown I am talking to you with your oversimplified phrases and nonsensical premises) or they captivate a person but at the end you feel you have wasted your time. This novel is well-written and I recomend it, but I am not sure if it was a waste of my time because the characters did not teach me anything about being human.

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