Published by Little Brown and Company on July 22, 2014
Genres: Young Adult
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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.