The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles. To this library, a man brings his ten-year-old son, Daniel, one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book and from the dusty shelves pulls The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julián Carax and to save those he left behind.
This book is absolutely nothing but a masterpiece. It snaked its way onto my list of favourites as soon as I read the words 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books'. The gloomy, gothic feel of the story does nothing but engage you into a whirlwind of suspense, and the plot itself is an itch which categorically cannot be scratched until you have come to the end of the novel.
The characterisation is astounding; although we are faced with a multitude of characters, each has their own story, each is seamless, each is beautiful, and most of all each of them has something crucial to add to the mystery. All of these factors made me recklessly invest in the characters, and bundled me up in their lives completely.
I absolutely loved the mystery of the novel. Tiny little bits of information unravelled the secrets at a flawless pace; the gloomy setting of post-war Barcelona added to the chill; Daniel uncovering different perspectives on events was simply delicious. It's a web of secrets, lies and deceit, and seeing Daniel tangled in this, then untangling himself is just wonderful. The plot reminded me of Russian dolls, revealing more and more the further you pry.
My favourite little nuance here was the way in which Daniel's life parallelled Julián's in quite an apparent way. I was almost expecting a very obvious "I am your father" moment, and was glad when this didn't arrive. At one point Daniel seems to become aware of this, and the similarities end. I like to think this is because Daniel learns from Julián's mistakes, whether conciously or not, and chooses his own path.
Is there anything better than a story about books and secrets? Not for me. This is timeless, enchanting, captivating, enthralling and absolutely fascinating. I devoured it, and I would encourage you to do the same.