Looking ahead to the summer selling season, Kathy “Scout” Pettersen, children’s bookseller at The Bookworm in Omaha, Neb., has high expectations for Marina: A Gothic Tale for All Ages by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, due from Little, Brown in July.
Marina is a young adult novel into which one saunters, leisurely taking in the lush writing. Nearing the end, its pace increases dramatically and the reader is sprinting toward answers to mysteries just out of reach. At the finish, one slows to a crawl, hoping the story will never end.
Marina is many tales in one. It is a rousing adventure of chases and close escapes. It’s an eerie, foggy, claustrophobic story of winding, deserted paths leading nowhere or into unimaginable realms. It’s a gothic romance of the past unfolding into a contemporary recounting of love and friendship. It’s a dialogue between youth and age.
The novel opens at the end of the story, and follows the labyrinthine streets of old Barcelona into the story of Oscar Drai and the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, Marina. The maze then leads readers back to the beginning. Marina invites Oscar into a mystery she has shared with no one. They follow a faceless old woman draped in widow’s weeds, enshrouded by a veil. Weekly, she goes to a cemetery to visit a grave unmarked by anything other than a stone engraved with an emblem of a black butterfly.
By following this mysterious woman into decayed neighborhoods, Marina and Oscar uncover her past and descend into an underground peopled with infernal devices. Mannequins take on features of evil, Pinocchio-like puppets. That a character is named Maria Shelley is no coincidence: there are clear references to Frankenstein and his monster. The novel’s atmosphere tingles with a murkiness that will satisfy any teen’s taste for the macabre.
Marina entertains while revealing underlying themes of loss, yearning, and memory. Zafón, best known as author of The Shadow of the Wind, writes with the hand of a master. This novel will appeal to fans of Isabel Allende’s young adult fiction and Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy.
Marina: A Gothic Tale for All Ages by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Little, Brown, $19 July ISBN 978-0316044714