The Shadow of the Wind

Last updated
The Shadow of the Wind
First US edition
Author Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Original titleLa sombra del viento
Translator Lucia Graves
Country Spain
Language Spanish
SeriesCemetery of Forgotten Books
Genre Mystery
Publisher Planeta (Spain)
Penguin Books (USA)
Weidenfeld & Nicolson & Orion Books (UK)
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
ISBN 84-08-05793-6
OCLC 68085235
Followed by The Angel's Game  

The Shadow of the Wind (Spanish : La sombra del viento) is a 2001 novel by the Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón and a worldwide bestseller. The book was translated into English in 2004 by Lucia Graves and sold over a million copies in the UK after already achieving success on mainland Europe, topping the Spanish bestseller lists for weeks. It was published in the United States by Penguin Books and in Great Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Orion Books. It is believed to have sold 15 million copies worldwide, [1] making it one of the best-selling books of all time.


Ruiz Zafón's follow-up, The Angel's Game , is a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind. His third in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven , is the sequel to The Shadow of the Wind.

Plot summary

The novel is actually a story within a story. [2] In the story-world "The Shadow of the Wind" is a novel by the obscure Catalan author Julián Carax. A boy, Daniel Sempere, sets out to discover Julián's other works, and becomes involved in tracing the entire history of Carax. Daniel's friend, who goes by the alias of Fermín Romero de Torres, was imprisoned and tortured in Montjuïc Castle as a result of his involvement in espionage against the government during the Civil War. He helps Daniel in a number of ways, but their probing into the murky past of a number of people who have been either long dead or long forgotten unleashes the dark forces of the murderous Inspector Fumero.

Thus, unravelling a long story that has been buried in the depths of oblivion, Daniel and Fermín come across a love story, the beautiful yet tragic story of Julián and Penélope, both of whom seem to have been missing since 1919—that is, nearly thirty years earlier. Julián, who was the son of the hatter Antoni Fortuny and his wife Sophie Carax (but preferred to use his mother's last name), and Penélope Aldaya, the only daughter of the extremely wealthy Don Ricardo Aldaya and his beautiful, narcissistic American wife, developed an instant love for each other and lived a clandestine relationship only through casual furtive glances and faint smiles for around four years, after which they decided to elope to Paris, unaware that the shadows of misfortune had been closing in on them ever since they had met. The two lovers are doomed to unknown fates just a week before their supposed elopement, which is meticulously planned by Julián's best friend, Miquel Moliner—also the son of a wealthy father, who had earned much during the war, including a bad reputation for selling ammunition. It is eventually revealed that Miquel loved Julián more than any brother and finally sacrificed his own life for him, having already abandoned his desires and his youth for causes of charity and his friend's well-being after his elopement to Paris -- although without Penélope, who never turned up for the rendezvous.

Penélope's memory keeps burning in Julián's heart, and this eventually forces him to return to Barcelona (in the mid 1930s); however he encounters the harsh truth about Penélope, nothing more than a memory to those who knew her since she had never been seen or heard of again by anyone after 1919. Daniel discovers, from the note Nuria Monfort left for him, that Julián and Penélope are actually half-brother and sister; her father had an affair with his mother and Julián was the result. The worst thing he learns is that after Julián left, Penélope's parents imprisoned her because they were ashamed of her committing incest with him and she was pregnant with his child. Penélope gave birth to a son named David Aldaya, who was stillborn. Penélope died in childbirth, due to her parents' ignoring her cries for help, and her body was placed in the family crypt along with her child's. When returning to the Aldaya Mansion, Julián is enraged and embittered by the news of his love's death along with their child's. He hates every wasted second of his life without Penélope and hates his books all the more. He begins to burn all of his novels and calls himself Lain Coubert.

After finishing reading the book, Daniel marries Beatriz "Bea" Aguilar, whom he has loved for a long time, in 1956. Soon after, Bea gives birth to a son. Daniel names his son Julián Sempere, in honor of Julián Carax. In 1966, Daniel takes Julián to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where The Shadow of the Wind is kept.


Critical reception

The novel received positive to mixed reviews from literary critics. [3] [4] [5] Stephen King wrote, "If you thought the true gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind. Shadow is the real deal." [6] Entertainment Weekly assigned the book a grade of A, describing the book as "wondrous" and noting that "there are places in which the book might seem a little over-the-top (doomed love, gruesome murders) but for Zafon's masterful, meticulous plotting and extraordinary control over language". [7] The Guardian considered that "Zafón's novel is atmospheric, beguiling and thoroughly readable, but ultimately lacks the magic its early chapters promise". [8]

See also

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  1. "Creating a fiction that's real". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  2. "The Shadow of the Wind: The mystery of a book within a book". Daily News Egypt. 2016-01-13. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  3. "The Shadow of the Wind".
  4. "Come the Catalan". The Economist. ISSN   0013-0613 . Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  5. Eder, Richard (2004-04-25). "In the Cemetery of Forgotten Books". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  6. "Stephen King on books he recommends". Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  7. "The Shadow Of The Wind". Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  8. Colvile, Robert (2004-06-06). "The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón review - a triumph of imagination". The Observer. ISSN   0029-7712 . Retrieved 2020-06-20.