08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books

The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 262 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/02/2013

When Irene Sauvelle’s father dies, she and her family find themselves moving to a small coastal village in Northern France where her mother, Simone, finds employment as a housekeeper for an eccentric toymaker named Lazarus. At first the small family is enchanted (if slightly caught off-guard) by the sheer volume and intricacy of Lazarus’s automatons. Village life treats them equally well. Irene quickly becomes friends with one of the house’s other employees, Hannah and then is introduced to (and quickly falls for) Hannah’s cousin, Ismael. The family appears to lead a charmed life until Hannah turns up dead in the forest near the estate. The house and its contents cease to be amusing as things take a turn for the menacing.
The narrative shifts from character to character, which means that the reader will have multiple perspectives with which to decipher exactly what sort of evil is at play here. The plot has echoes of other famous tales, most notably Wuthering Heights and Faust, though the book itself has a distinctly “Zafon” feel to it. The setting is characteristically atmospheric and the juxtaposition of the beautiful against the terrifying is also very much in keeping with Zafon’s other work. The plot is merely OK; it manages to be both a bit confusing and predictable at the same time. The end comes crashing to a close, which feels somewhat anti-climactic after the action leading up to it. It’s OK though; the intriguing setting and evocative language more than make up for any plot-based missteps.

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