Carlos Ruiz Zafòn’s latest novel to be translated into English, The Watcher in the Shadows, is an eerie affair not to be read at night. When Irene’s father passes away, the family moves from Paris to Normandy where Irene’s mother is offered a job as a housekeeper by Lazarus Jann, a mysterious toymaker. The family slips easily into life in the close-knit village, but when one of Lazarus’s servants is found murdered in the woods surrounding his castle, Cravenmoore, Irene is drawn into mysterious occurrences concerning the toymaker. Just what is lurking in the shadows?
Although this novel is intended for young adults, Zafòn’s skill at creating eerie and even frightening stories means that The Watcher in the Shadows can be enjoyed by people of all ages. The descriptions of Cravenmoore being filled with automata and the constant presence of something in the shadows made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Maybe I’m just a coward, but The Watcher in the Shadows scared me, let alone its intended audience of children.
What I would say, however, is that Zafòn’s novel has a tendency to over-dramatize at times. Instead of showing us Irene’s fear or her brother’s courageousness, The Watcher in the Shadows spent too much time telling us the thoughts of each character which in turn slowed down the pace. In fact, if these sections were cut, the novel could hardly be called a novel at all when it is barely 200 pages as it stands.
At some points it is clear to see that The Watcher in the Shadows is intended for younger audience. Yet the imagination that comes with Zafòn’s tale of intrigue and sinister shadows is very much enjoyable. It makes for an easy summer read, but I’d advise you not to read it at night. You never know what could watching you from the shadows…
By Julia Molloy
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