Marina Marina by
Published by on July 22, 2014
Format: eBook
Pages: 320

"We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine."

In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in Barcelona. For seven days and seven nights no one knows his whereabouts...

His story begins in an old quarter of the city, where he meets the strange Marina and her father, Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the last Sunday of each month. At exactly ten o'clock in the morning, a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman, her face shrouded be a black velvet cloak. Holding a single rose, she walks to a gravestone that bears no name, only a mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her, they begin a journey that transports them to a forgotten, postwar Barcelona--a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons--and reveals a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

Marina is a classic gothic novel, full of suspense, ghastly surprises and just a touch of romance. Fans of author Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s adult books (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series in particular) will find the same lush language and clever plot devices in Marina.

The novel was originally published in Spain in 1999, but it was almost ten years before it was translated and published in the U.S this July. This edition contains “A Note from the Author,” a letter wherein Zafón shares that Marina is one of his most-loved creations, and the last young adult novel he wrote. He explains, “as the writing advanced, everything in the story began to acquire a shade of farewell, and by the time I’d finished it, I sensed that something inside me…was forever left among its pages.”

It is on that haunted, nostalgic note that Marina begins, and a foreboding sense of impending farewell pervades the story. Zafón writes lovely, almost Victorian prose. Although his language is highly descriptive and poetic, it is never overwrought. The old-world city of Barcelona is the perfect setting for the novel, and Zafón’s loving descriptions and detailed knowledge of the moody, atmospheric city bring it to life as a central character.

In true Zafón fashion, all of the characters are slightly haunted by the absence of a loved one, or, as in the case of the young protagonist Oscar, an entire family. When Oscar meets Germán Blau, a portrait painter, and his beautiful daughter Marina, he feels the immediate kinship of the truly lonely. The friendship that develops between Oscar and Marina is my favorite aspect of the novel. There is a bit of romantic tension between them, but mostly they are just best friends, fellow adventurers and co-conspirators. They truly love each other, but it develops from a place of deep understanding rather than romance. When the pair spy a black-veiled woman leaving a single red rose on an unmarked grave, their decision to follow her eventually leads them to the very heart of evil. The villains Marina and Oscar face are monstrous, but also complex, their humanity sacrificed long ago in the pursuit of a goal that was set with the best of intentions.

Although Marina is classified as YA, like so many wonderful books in the genre it defies categorization. The novel explores friendship, family, love and life through a lens that magnifies the darkest parts of human nature in true gothic fashion. Marina is everything a good gothic novel should be, and also a compelling testament to the power of love.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads


4.5 Stars

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One Response to Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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