Thursday 25 August 2016

Gothic dreamland drama - Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón


by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves (Translator)

In his intro to this book Zafón says it is perhaps his favourite work, I can see why. It is dark and chilling, yet this is beautifully counterbalanced with the growing tender affection of teenage love . The straightforward and accessible prose hooks you into the story of 15 year old Oscar Drai and Marina Blau as they unravel the mystery of the woman in black discovered laying a single red rose on a Barcelona grave, unmarked except for the engraving of a black butterfly. Full of original simile eg “A strange sound throbbed in the darkness. A metallic murmur, like the sound of a venetian blind quivering” , bloodcurdling imagery, the dolls, and wicked juxtaposed last lines of chapters and section, enforcing the turn of the page.

ashramblings verdict 5* For me Zafón is a modern master of suspense.

Saturday 13 August 2016

The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Midnight Palace (Niebla #2)

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves (Translator)

This is the second in Zafón’s Niebla series. Each book stands as a story on its own but the three are linked by the theme of the dark side of a soul tormented.

Set again in the the early part of the 20th century, this time in Calcutta, Zafón masterly creates another highly visual series of fiery transformations for the tormented soul of this story, Jahwal. Oh for someone to make these books into a movie, they are ripe for modern cgi techniques to transform them for a wider audience on screen.

Ben, Siraj, Roshan, Seth, Michael, Ian and Isobel are the Chowbar Society of friends who meet each night in a dilapidated building they affectionately call the Midnight Palace. All residents of an orphanage who on turning 16 will be turned out onto the streets to find their own way in life, dealing with whatever the world throws at them. Their last night together holds revelations, tests their commitment to each other and those of Arayami Bose (such a wonderful grandmother figure) and her granddaughter Sheere through the auspices of the bedevilled Jahwal.

Zafón crafts all his characters well, each of the members of the society are well rounded, well formed individuals, especially when one considers that this series was his first books even though they were translated after the success of the English translation of his later ‘The Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ series. Yes, reviewers and perfectionist have found some inconsistencies in the plot but in my opinion these are minor and don’t detract from the overall effect and impact – that marvellous opening scenes as Lieutenant Peake flees with the new born twins, the wonderful old lady that is Aryami, the gruesome ghostly apparition of the train, and the fiery bloodbath that unravels in the railway station.

ashramblings 5* I just love this series of books and can’t recommend them enough

Thursday 11 August 2016

September lights / The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

September Lights / The Watcher in the Shadows (Niebla #3)

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
I am not sure why the renamed this book written in 1995 but only finally being translated into English in 2013!
It is a fantastic thriller for young adults, or as its author says for those young at heart who like a good tale of intrigue and adventure in the vein of Dumas, Verne and Stevenson. The third in his trilogy of books for young adults (The Prince of Mist (Niebla, #1) , The Midnight Palace (Niebla, #2),
The Watcher In The Shadows (Mist, #3) ), in my opinion, this is the best of the three. They can be read separately and out of sequence.  
Bookendend by a letter from Ismael to Irene, and a letter from Irene to Ismael, the story is set 10 years before the letters in 1937 when they meet on the Normandy coast where the widow Simone Sauvelle has brought her two children Irene and younger brother Dorian, to take up a post of housekeep to the mysterious recluse, the toymaker Lazarus Jann. The magic of that youthful summer is captured as the two youngsters explore the world around them, discovering each other and uncovering the mystery of Alma Matisse in a mysterious diary. Their innocence is shattered first by the death of Ismael’s sister and then by strange happening at Jann’s house Cravenmoore, the surrounding woods and Seaview, the Sauvelle home in its grounds. Zafón builds the plot and tension very well to its ominous, atmospheric and highly visual climax where all the story elements come together to explain the dreadful deeds, the source of the mysterious shadow and how it links the story told in the diary to their own.
It is ripe for making into a movie with the toys and the automatons which inhabit the toymakers world, the beautiful sail boat trips across the bay, and of course the evil shadow’s wanderings and destruction. As far as I know none of Zafón’s books have yet been filmed. Such as shame. For anyone who has read his The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #1) , The Angel’s Game (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #2) or The Prisoner of Heaven (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #3) but has missed out on his others, I highly recommend this one. All translated to English by Lucia Graves.
ashramblings verdict 5* I can’t but give this book 5 stars as it is a gripping tale, beautifully written and well told.