The Watcher in the Shadows Review by Lauren Redmond
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Title- The Watcher in the Shadows
Author- Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher- Weidenfeld and Nicolson
Date- 2014 Genre- fiction, fantasy, YA
Rating- 4/5 stars
In 1930s Paris, Armand Sauvelle dies, leaving behind Simone Sauvelle and their two children Dorian and Irene, now fatherless and husband less, the family move to the west coast of France not far from Mont Saint Michel. Lazarus Jann, an odd old toymaker lives alone in a crumbling mansion Cravenmoore with nobody only his bedridden wife and countless automatons guarding the house.
What first drew me in was the title- ‘Watcher in the Shadows’ its mysterious and disturbing to me and reminded me of so many old style mystery novels which made me all the more eager to read.
Once in Cravenmoore, Irene and Dorian are at first curious to know more about their mother’s mysterious employer, Lazarus Jann and more particularly the worrying sense the automatons are a little more than just that; lifeless mechanical toys. The young maid, Hannah, who is flirtatious and chatty immediately makes friends with Irene and then is promptly murdered by something unseen and mysterious. After her murder Irene and Hannah’s cousin Ismael set about exploring Cravenmoore and the secrets within. In doing so, Irene uncovers the diary of a mysterious woman Alma Matisse whom was believed to have drowned while trying to escape the house many years previous and the questions surrounding this- whom or what was she escaping from? A strange force seems to surround Cravenmoore and within some unseen evil inhabits each eerie automaton blinking and watching from the shadows.
I found the characters probably one of the best aspects of the book; each one was immensely enjoyable and likeable in their own way. My two favourites being Lazarus Jann and Hannah, Hannah seems so real and for the small part she had in the book reminded me of a chatty, always happy over eager friend and when she died the scene really touched me as did Jann’s plight and battle against subsequent shadowy forces inhabiting Cravenmoore. I loved Lazarus Jann because I felt I really understood his grievances and empathised deeply with him, to me he isn’t the true villain just a sorrowful lonely figure longing for his wife back. Particularly when I began to suspect he may never have been really in control and never indeed the villainous one.
What I also liked apart from Ruiz Zafon’s writing style, was his switching of his point of view. The story is told from over the shoulder of all major characters within; Dorian, Irene, Ishmael, Lazarus and Simone. Each point of view is unique and gives each character equal footing in the story and allows us insight into the minds and thoughts of each one which made every character likeable and quiet appealing to me.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book to me. The story was very fluid and readable, it wasn’t complicated and its central plot and themes felt quiet unique especially the subtle horror aspects of the automatons. I also found the characters likeable and believable and felt this was also helped with Ruiz Zafon’s use of words and language.
I will certainly be reading more Ruiz Zafon after this and found this to be a very good introduction to the author and left me eager to read more. I would recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of YA, old style mystery novels and Enid Blyton which was according to the authors note at the end deliberate, it’s a book intended for adults who wish to revisit vintage mystery and adventure tales and young adults who want to discover and immerse themselves in for the first time.