Review Blog

May 23 2013

The watcher in the shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Text, 2013. ISBN 9781921922527
(Age 11+) Recommended. After the death of her father, Irene's family which had been well off, fall into poverty and when Irene's mother accepts a job as a housekeeper for a strange toymaker, they all believe that things will improve. However, Lazarus, the owner of the crumbling mansion by the sea, creates strange and dangerous mechanical beings. Fearful lights come from an old lighthouse and there are strange stories about a woman's disappearance. Irene meets Ismael, a young sailor and together they battle the angels of the dark in this gothic thriller.
From the opening letter, which is addressed to Irene, and which laments the fact that the writer has sent her 100 letters and received no replies, Ruiz Zafon sets up an atmosphere of suspense that is unrelenting from beginning to end. The mechanical robots that Lazarus builds are indeed very frightening, and Lazarus himself appears to have risen from the dead. There are indications that awful secrets are hidden behind locked doors and a fearsome angel is seen in the dark woods surrounding the house.
The old fashioned tone perfectly suits this gothic novel. Even though Irene is only 15 and Ismael not much older, they both feel like adults who have to take on an adult role and solve the mystery surrounding Lazarus and his awful toys.
Readers who want to be scared and who like a good horror mystery in the tradition of Edgar Allen Poe or Mary Shelly will revel in this riveting story. Teacher's notes are available at the publisher's website.
Pat Pledger

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