This story combines gothic soap opera with some uninspiring meta-literary ideas. Like N-thousand books before it, Shadow of the Wind focuses on writing, books, and the love of reading. Many of the characters are book sellers, writers, translators, librarians, wide-eyed book lovers, etc. The villians like televison. The story unfolds as the young protagonist tries to track down the history of a certain novel, going from one tidbit of information and small tale to the next. He learns about the novel's author, and how the drama in the author's life parallels the drama in the protagonist's life. It is a similar setup to the Harry Potter books, except that in this case the main story is Spanish soap opera rather than adventures at a wizard boarding school. If you're into Spanish soap opera, this is great! If you're not, then it is less so. There are Dad's being murderously upset over their daughter's virginity, people obsessing over their first love from 20 years ago, a complete unawareness of birth control, vows of eternal vengeance, pining caretakers and parents, mistaken/assumed identities, cursed houses, etc. Hmmmm, I might be making it sound better than it is. Anyway, there is a lot of this soap opera (500 pages), and while I realize the soap opera was an intentional style, I didn't entirely enjoy it and had trouble connecting with the character's contrived and willfully bad decisions. Seriously, if the head of the city police threatens to use a blow torch on you, *again*, just move to a different city. More generally, I felt that there was this weird mismatch between the light-hearted and adventerous tone of much of the book, and the deadly state-sactioned violence that the main characters were risking. Compare this to another Gothic book, Melmoth the Wanderer, which is un-relentingly grim and has a much, much deeper stack-trace of nested stories. I feel like Melmoth's consistency and extremism works much better in a Gothic novel.
The Shadow of the Wind did have its bright spots. The author isn't a bad writer, and there were many small spots of charming dialog and vivid description. It's just that the overall plot and design of the book never really cohered for me.