After the events of The Shadow of the Wind, Daniel Sempere has settled into married life with Bea Aguilar and their son Julián is about to turn one. One bad day, however, a mysterious old man named Sebastián Salgado comes to leave Fermín a note from their past together in a fancy edition of The Count Of Montecristo. In the inevitable flashbacks, Fermín reveals what really transpired in all those years he was a prisoner of the Francoist order: his stay in the Montjuic Castle prison, his relationship with Salgado and the schizophrenic novelist David Martín, and his true role towards the Sempere family. Daniel will discover a nasty secret involving the mysterious former Minister of Culture Mauricio Valls and the death of his own mother.
The novel, part of the tetralogy The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, is basically a large, rewriting flashback by Fermín and a tie-in for the next and last book of the trilogy, breaking Zafón's tradition of writing books that could be read as self-contained stories. It was followed by The Labyrinth of Spirits.
This work contains examples of:
- Broad Strokes: Fermín's background as given in his crying confession in The Shadow of the Wind is vaguely similar to the one shown in this book, for otherwise they are very different.
- Canon Immigrant: The quote that was the Arc Words of Zafón's star young adult novel, Marina, is now used again: "sometimes we only remember what never happened". Amusingly enough, it is now said to be a quote from a Julián Carax novel.
- Continuity Drift: Fermín's background and role in the series is completely rewritten from the version he gave while tearfully opening up to Daniel in The Shadow of the Wind. Instead of spending only some days in Montjuic Castle being tortured by Fumero as told in Shadow, he comes to the castle with the torture already on his back (Stealth Pun here) and spends a much longer time there. He also escapes with the aid of David Martín, instead of being abandoned half dead by his torturers, and the person that heals and hides him is a wealthy Gypsy instead of a widow. Finally, instead of being forced into poverty and encountering fortuitously the Sempere family, he goes to live with Brians precisely in order to watch over the Sempere family before becoming voluntarily homeless.
- Flashback: A huge flashback by Fermín is inserted in midst of the book.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Valls is bespectacled and is a piece of work.
- External Retcon: It is revealed here that the entire The Angel's Game was just a story written by the insane Martín, with its ending being pure delusion. Instead, Martín was captured in Spain several years earlier and given for death.
- Happy Ending Override: At the end of The Angel's Game, Martín was shown to be living alive and well in exile after the Civil War, having gained some peace for himself (though being seemingly cursed by Corelli). Now it turns out nothing of this happened: he foolishly returned to Spain in midst of the war and was captured and jailed, with the previous conclusion having happened only on his head.
- Rewrite: Fermin's past is revisited, but now it is almost completely different from the one he confessed in The Shadow of the Wind.
- Whole Episode Flashback: Subverted. It initially seems this way, as there are around 70 pages narrated by Daniel before Fermín goes on with his story for 150, but at the end Daniel takes it again for 120 and something significant happens there.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: There seems to be a bad case of this in the novel. It's said there Daniel started going out with Bea when he was 16, but Shadow of the Wind had him as 18, and the dates in this very book still point to the latter. It's also said that Bea and Daniel have been married for almost two years, but their son Julián's age is said to be of mere months, which doesn't fit given that Bea was already pregnant when they married.