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Literature / Marina

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She had the key to all the secrets.
Marina is a 1999 novel by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

In September 1979, cynic Ordinary High-School Student Óscar Drai likes to explore the old parts of Barcelona during the little free time given by his depressing boarding school. His life is boring and anodine until in one of his walkouts he mets a dreamy, beautiful girl named Marina, who soon involves them both in a mystery that has its roots in the city's glorious past. Through the story, Óscar and Marina will be forced to solve an enigma that will threaten their very lives and whose sinister nature few could imagine, all within a world of nostalgia, decaying love and blurred memories. After all, as Marina says, sometimes we only remember what never really happened.

This novel has the distinction to be, in more than one way, the end of an age in Zafón's writing career. It was his very last work in the young adult genre, released after his juvenile Trilogy of Mist and before his flagship adult tetralogy The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and also remains as Zafón's first, only and last stand-alone book.

Tropes in this work include:

  • Action Survivor: Óscar may be just an average highschooler, but he knows how to save the day when it's needed.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's never explained how exactly does Kolvenik have his zombies Brainwashed in order to obey him. In fact, Óscar gets María to momentarily snap out of the mind control when he finds her turned into an abomination.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Kolvenik uses a serum synthesized from a butterfly species that allows to reanimate clinically dead but otherwise intact (or rebuilt) organisms. While this doesn't trascend the Applied Phlebotinum field, the fact that Kolvenik himself could be resurrected after rotting in his grave during 20 years is quite head-scratching, as his tissues would be too decayed for a serum to work in them in the first place. Of course, the handwave is still there.
  • Arc Words: "Sometimes we only remember what never happened", Marina's famous quote.
  • Back from the Dead: Mijail Kolvenik is resurrected by María Shelley.
  • Big Bad: Mijail Kolvenik.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kolvenik is killed again and his nightmares burn with him, but Marina dies, and Óscar is left to his dark life again to lick his emotional wounds and carry on.
  • Body Horror: Kolvenik and his creatures.
  • Broken Bird: Marina. She has the same illness that killed her mother, and knows she has little time to live.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: In this case, Kolvenik knows where you live.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Óscar describes himself as talented for nothing and little more than an average highschool boy.
  • Cool Old Guy: Germán.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Though, in Kolvenik's case, he was already insane before he turned himself into a cyborg.
  • Cyborg: In a Diesel Punk imagery.
  • Darker and Edgier: Unusually for a young adult novel, although rather usual in Zafón's works.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marina and Óscar are both quite snarking characters, especially at each other.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Marina at the end.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The narrator claims to be a 30-year-old Óscar finally telling this story.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Happens at the beach, with surprisingly discrete results compared to most examples of the trope, when Óscar eyes Marina's wet underwear after swimming until she covers herself upon realizing this.
  • First Love: Implied with Óscar, and probably with Marina as well.
  • First-Person Smartass: A Zafón trademark.
  • Friendless Background: Marina, as she is homeschooled. Óscar qualifies as well, as he seems to have no friends aside from JF.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: The titular girl has hay-colored hair, in the protagonist's words, and is generally sweet unless provoked.
  • Heroic BSoD: Óscar after Marina's death.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Kolvenik and his creatures.
  • Hypochondria: JF according to Óscar, although the only time he demonstrates it on-page it comes across as Terrified of Germs instead.
  • Inner Monologue: Another trademark of Zafón.
  • Invisible Parents: Óscar's parents are mentioned, but we never meet them, as they are away working.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Again, both Óscar and Marina. They can be somewhat jerky and/or displicent, especially when their buttons are touched, but deep down they are genuinely kind people who care very much for each's other.
  • Kavorka Man: Quim Salvat, Germán's mentor and possible biological father, is described as looking like a bear yet being also great with ladies.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: The teufel moths.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Deconstructed and played for drama. Marina definitely lights up Óscar's life, and even he acknowledges to himself how Wish-Fulfillment-ish is the case of a lonely daydreamer like him befriending a sweet beautiful girl who makes his joyless life dangerously interesting. However, this only causes him to completely break down when she dies, as he loses the girl he loved and the only meaningful relationship he had in his life.
  • Marionette Master: Kolvenik created puppet minions out of dead people.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • A man named Germán went to marry a German woman.
    • Marina's favourite place is a spot on the beach, fitting for someone whose name means "of the sea" and whose surname translates as "blue".
  • Multiethnic Name: Marina's full name is technically Marina Blau Auermann, with a Spanish Catalonian surname and a German one.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: The title girl is half-German, and as it couldn't be otherwise, she's beatiful, blond and with clear-colored eyes.
  • P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl: The book definitely follows this dynamic, title included.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Downplayed. Marina is not very energetic by the standards of this trope, but she is the one who drags the duller Óscar to their adventures (at least until the adventures start dragging them around).
  • Secondary Character Title: The book is called "Marina", but the central protagonist is Óscar. Justified as, in his own words, the story is about her.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Joan and María Shelley's surname is an obvious one to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, another story featuring surgically created monsters.
    • Kolvenik's room full of toylike artificial beings (among them a weird harlequin) and JF's name are probably nods to Blade Runner, which was released back when Zafón was a teenager like Óscar.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Marina's mom Kirsten had one of those, with syntomps like dizziness, weakness and frequent bleeding. Which Marina also demonstrates.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Although vaguely Russian-sounding, "Kolvenik" isn't actually a name anywhere; Kolenik, however, is a fairly popular Czech last name.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Marina's personality fluctuates between sweet and cynic.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?