*Instagram Photo Credit: @noveladdictions
In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts. . . .
His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.
When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.
**I listened to the audiobook, read by Daniel Weyman**
Beautiful, grotesque, heart wrenching, and ominous; this book deals with the overarching themes of life, death, love, and friendship.
I went into this book with fairly high expectations. After having read Zafon’s “The Shadow of the Wind” and loving it, I decided to give this one a go expecting it to be good but slightly less so than “The Shadow of the Wind”. I was not prepared for the onslaught on emotions this story brought.
The prose in this book is, again, beautiful, which seems to be a staple of Zafon; and the gothic Spanish atmosphere comes right out of “The Shadow of the Wind”, with the misty streets, graveyards, abandoned estates…
What surprised me the most was the amount of well-executed action. There was so much more physical action in this than in “The Shadow of the Wind”, and this action was so chilling and grotesque that I would almost call it whimsical magical realism, except there isn’t really any magic, so maybe scifi, but that’s not quite right either. Despite how I categorize it, it was great. All of my senses were attuned to the story, I could smell the carrion and hear the rattling…
As far as characters go, just about everyone was spot on. The only character whose function in the story I didn’t quite understand was Oscars friend – I can’t even remember his name. There was a whole section dedicated to giving us information about him and his relationship to Oscar, but then he never really played any important role in the story and hardly made an appearance, I feel like he was just unnecessarily there. Then there’s the relationship between Oscar and Marina. Their friendship, verging on love, was both heartbreaking and beautiful. That’s all I can say. Somehow Zafon even made be really care for the backstories of all the people Oscar and Marina met during their investigation; I just ate the backstories right up!
Since this is spoiler free, all I can say about the mystery was that it grew in size and risk wonderfully and I loved it. The best part is that this story isn’t dependent on the mystery, the prose and characters alone carry themselves well.
The ending of this story just made me ______. I can’t tell you how it made me feel without spoilers, but those feelings were STRONG. It was a great ending.
I also have to say that I sort of disagree with the book being marketed as a YA book. I mean, I understand that the characters are in their teens and that this story is free of any sex scenes, but I feel like the whole nature of the mystery plot should bump this up to an ‘adult’ classification. Certainly young adults can read this but I feel like the classification YA doesn’t do it justice (of course this may just be my personal judgement of YA, generalized).