Book Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Title: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
Genre: Horror, Fiction
Format: Audio Book
Narrator: Daniel Weyman
Source: Library Download
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012


This short novella takes place in Barcelona between 1979 and 1980. 15-year-old boarding school student Oscar  Drai finds himself with 3 free hours during the school day. With this time, he explores his neighborhood and surroundings areas. During on of his excursions, he stumbles into a dilapidated mansion, drawn in by the music playing from the inside.  Caught by the owner, Oscar takes off running, leaving with a gold watch that he had seen laying on a table. After a while, feeling the guilt of a thief, Oscar returns to the house to return the watch to its rightful owners. It is from this day that he meets Marina. A girl his age who lives alone with her father and the ghost of her departed mother. While Oscar and Marina form a unique and strong friendship, they find themselves led down a dark path, inserting themselves into the lives of broken, miserable lost souls. His journey with Marina takes him into the labyrinths of Barcelona’s underworld, a world full of forgotten, deformed and mislead creatures. A postwar Barcelona, filled with aristocrats, actresses, tycoons and inventors.

I think I would best describe this book a horror fairy tale. In all honesty, I was shocked to see that this book was penned for a young adult audience. Zafron’s prose is so rich with imagery, and so wrought with fear, loneliness and desperation from its cast of characters. I was shuddering with fear and disgust at some of the horror and violence that took place in the book. The twist at the end I did not predict, although it seemed like a fitting ending after everything Oscar and Marina suffered throughout the course of this book. I listed to the book on audio, which did definitely set the mood of such a dark book. Daniel Weyman did a fantastic job with the pace and tone of the book.

The book is an intricate mystery, suspense, thriller, horror love story of sorts. An ugly love, a frail love and a determined love, but a love story nonetheless. Although I wasn’t aware at the brevity of the book through the audio book, it is a story that I didn’t want to finish. In fact, it was very difficult to find a place to pause throughout the entire story. Each scene, each conversation, each experience flowed so perfectly into the next. It’s almost as if the book is meant to be read in one-go. My constant stops and starts with disrupt the mood and tone of the book and it would take me a while to transport myself back into Zafron’s world.

Although the book is set in 1970’s Barcelona, I was able to recognize a number of streets and locations that he mentioned from my trip there a few years ago. If anything, this book has me wanting to go back to Barcelona. The Gothic Quarter in particular is so rife for horror stories and old magic. It’s a wonderful setting for these types of books. Of the two Zafron books I’ve read, I prefer The Shadow of the Wind. I found that one to be more of an emotional and psychological horror, while Marina was driven more by passion and emotion. Apparently, I have not reviewed The Shadow of the Wind on this site. I thought I had. It’s a wonderful book and one I’m constantly shoving into the hands of curious library users asking for a good book to read. But now I have another title to stow away in my memory for the teens that come in looking for a book.

The post, Book Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, first appeared on The Novel World.

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