I feel like this book is really a series of short stories woven together so they become a novel. While character plot lines legitimately intersect, everyone is essentially on their own path. It's a mystery novel except none of the major action seems to happen until the mystery is solved, so in more ways than one, this is really a uniquely formatted novel.
Daniel Sempere happens upon a forgotten novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by an unknown author, Julian Carax, that proves to be the kind of book that forever alters the life of the reader. It's the kind of book you have to finish before putting it down, the kind you stay up all night reading. But, it's the last copy of the book in existence because a mysterious, deformed man has been systematically buying and burning all copies of any Carax novel. Daniel feels compelled to not only get to the bottom of this shady character's motives but to figure out who Carax was and what happened to him. Daniel's connection with the novel along with similarities between his life and Carax's life unite them together with a force that can't be ignored.
This quest for truth brings together a whole cast of characters who all contribute to Daniel's life becoming forever altered. Daniel falls in love, learns what true friendship is, witnesses pure evil and desperation, and gets a taste for what real loneliness and longing can do to someone all because of the impact of just one novel that Daniel accidentally happens upon.
Of course, I love the idea of a single book setting into motion the course of a reader's path into adulthood as Carax's book does for Daniel, and as the book goes on the level of intensity and immediacy picks up in a very effective way, but still something was missing from the story. I feel like the setting was a bit underdeveloped on the whole. The story takes place in Barcelona, yet I felt like it really could have happened anywhere. I guess I wanted more Spanish influence to the tale and didn't really feel transported to the another place and time while reading. I did find the story very entertaining and the characters intricately developed. I felt like I really knew these people. The style of writing and the story's organization makes it a pretty thrilling read that definitely builds upon itself with the right combination of emotion and action. I'd recommend it for anyone looking for a chance of pace (unless all you read are Gothic-inspired, modern mysteries!)