Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Review: The Watcher in The Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Watcher in the Shadows

By Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Watcher in the Shadows is definitely one of the best novels I have ever read. Set in 1930's Normandy, France, it follows the story of the Sauvelle family, Simone, Irene, and Dorian, who are struggling for money after the death of the father. Then one day, they are introduced to the kind, yet reclusive, toymaker, Lazarus Jann, who welcomes them with open arms. Lazarus lives in a grand building, set in the midst of a dark, mysterious forest. The story seemed to focus on the daughter, Irene, who meets a seclusive boy named Ismael. A good portion of the story focuses on their meagre adventures around the island and the forest, which I personally loved reading about.

        Ismael was probably the most characterised in this novel and his character development was brilliant. It wasn't hard to imagine that he could have been a real person, preferring seclusion but still strong-willed and brave. Dorian, Irene's younger brother, was also an interesting character, with a purposeful resemblance to the reclusive and eccentric toymaker. I noticed quite a bit of foreshadowing and hidden links in this story, which were very exciting to find. Now, I'm not entirely certain if this was intended or not because it seemed to work with the story, but Irene's character definitely seemed only half-there. It was almost as if she were a ghost in the story, the most of her personality veiled beneath a translucent cloak. The reader really didn't get to know this protagonist, but, as I said, it somewhat worked, enhancing the mystery, magic and intrigue that made this story so interesting.

        I must confess, the intrigue in this story beats a lot of what I've seen before. I have seen few people who claim to have experienced this also though, so I'll presume that this is just how my mind works, but the amount of mystery and guessing in this story really made it a whole. Every page, I was making links and guessing what was going to happen next. Every time I put the book down, every way in which the story could pan out appeared in my head. Congratulations to Zafon on this as it was truly outstanding.

        The thing that Zafon succeeded in the most though, was not the mystery, but the way the story grabbed you with sharp claws and drew you into the detailed gothic scenery. Everything was described in a way that painted a tantalising image in the reader's head, full of excitement and wonder. The Cravenmoore house, home of Lazarus Jann, was beautiful. The wonderful and exciting, yet creepy and disturbing, toys and artwork described around the house made it almost impossible to look away, drawing the reader into a swirling abyss.

        The tone of this book was very gothic and somewhat drab, but it worked wonderfully. I cried at one point and even laughed at one point, but the ominous nature of this book is really what made it such a thrilling read.

        The only thing I could really complain about with this book is the fact that it's a children's book. Maybe the childishness was what made the atmosphere so intriguing, but really I think this story is...
Oh nevermind, I'm trying to argue a point I don't really agree with and it's not working! This book was perfect. The only thing it really lacked was a bit of viscosity but I feel like I can hardly complain about that when the rest of it completely outweighed that fact.

        I would recommend this book to anyone, young or old, but I have to say, after lending this to my mum, I want to snatch it back very selfishly. I can tell you now, this is a book you will be very selfish about; this will be your story that will be shared with no one!

Abi Ainley

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