We all have books we love. May it be because the story gets straight to your heart, you feel like it was written exclusively to you, you think the author does magic and can paint with words—so many reasons.
For me, that book is The Shadow of The Wind. I’m from Portugal and I went to live and study for six months in Brazil in 2009. That turned out to be the most beautiful adventure of my life, but in the beginning, living in a different country where I didn't know anyone, felt very lonely. So, obviously, I needed the company and comfort of a book.
I went to a bookstore and I asked for a recommendation. The employee asked me some bookish questions and put in my hands the first volume of the four-book series The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, saying: "I'm sure you're going to love this book". A few days later I returned to the bookstore. I had to tell this man he and this book changed my life.
And because The Shadow of The Wind is so important to me, I had to read the remaining books of the quadrilogy: The Angel's Game, The Prisoner of Heaven, and now The Labyrinth of the Spirits, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
They all take place in a Barcelona devastated by the Spanish Civil War, where fear and death are still at every corner. But there is a special refuge for word lovers, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It is the hiding place of all books reneged and forgotten by humanity, kept by people who want to save them. Every book of the series is connected by this special place, Barcelona, and by some characters, but they all have independent stories.
In The Labyrinth of The Spirits, you complete the journey and solve some of the questions asked in the previous books. We are presented with a new character, Alicia Gris, who's the epitome of a strong woman, a femme fatale. She is a part of the secret police and agrees to one final case to investigate the disappearance of Mauricio Valls, the cultural minister of Spain. As she solves the crime, it leads Alicia and others down a path to the horrors of her childhood, the atrocities of the regime, as well as into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
In spite of being a big book (more than 800 pages), I felt I needed even more because it's so captivating and a page-turner. Zafón keeps up the mystery, suspense, romance, and historical fiction as in the first book, making it difficult to categorize the book into a genre.
The storytelling is amazing, as well as character development and the dialogue. I won't say it was perfect because I had some problems with some of Alicia's attitudes (why the hell did she kiss almost every man she encountered, even if she didn't have feelings for him?). But her dialogues were so witty, and I could imagine myself saying the same things.
And there is Fermín Romero de Torres. He's by far my favorite literary character ever. He's very clever, loyal, determined, always hungry, street smart, and with an ironic and acid sense of humor. If you don't like him it's because a) you're dead inside and you don't have feelings or b) you're dead inside and you don't have feelings. As simple as that!
I will miss Fermín and the other characters, the gothic experience, and I'm sure I will reread this series soon. Their world is now my world.
And as Carlos Ruiz Zafón says in The Shadow of The Wind:
“Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”
This series represents that deep mark for me.
The Labyrinth of the Spirits
By Carlos Ruiz Zafón
816 pages. 2018.