The Watcher in the Shadows (Excerpt)

Take a peek at The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, out on June 18 from Little, Brown Young Readers:

When fourteen-year-old Irene Sauvelle moves with her family to Cape House on the coast of Normandy, she’s immediately taken by the beauty of the place—its expansive cliffs, coasts, and harbors. There, she meets a local boy named Ishmael, and the two soon fall in love. But a dark mystery is about to unfold, involving a reclusive toymaker who lives in a gigantic mansion filled with mechanical beings and shadows of the past.

As strange lights shine through the fog surrounding a small, barren island, Irene’s younger brother dreams of a dark creature hidden deep in the forest. And when a young girl is found murdered, her body at the end of a path torn through the woods by a monstrous, inhuman force, Irene and Ishmael wonder—has a demonic presence been unleashed on the inhabitants of Cape House? Together, they’ll have to survive the most terrifying summer of their lives, as they try to piece together the many mysteries and secrets hidden in a town torn apart by tragedy, amidst a labyrinth of lights and shadows.


Irene followed him through the garden, heading toward the rear of the house. With every step she took, she kept telling herself that there was nobody inside and that the sensation of being watched was just a figment of her imagination.


They reached the wing connected to Lazarus’s old toy factory and stopped in front of the door of what looked like a workshop. Ismael took out a penknife and flicked open the blade. He then inserted the tip of the knife in the lock and carefully touched the mechanism inside.


“Move to one side. I need more light,” he said.

Irene stepped back and peered into the darkness that reigned inside the toy factory. The windowpanes were dulled from years of neglect, and it was practically impossible to make out anything inside the building.


“Come on, come on,” Ismael whispered to himself as he continued to work on the lock.


Irene watched him and tried not to listen to the voice inside her warning that it was not a good idea to break into someone else’s property. Finally the mecha? nism yielded with an almost inaudible click. A smile lit up Ismael’s face as the door opened a couple of centimeters.


“Piece of cake,” he said.


“Hurry,” said Irene. “Lazarus won’t be away for long.”


Ismael stepped inside. Taking a deep breath, Irene followed him. The atmosphere was thick with dust, which floated in the moonlight. The smell of various chemicals permeated the air. Ismael closed the door behind them and they both turned to face what remained of Lazarus Jann’s toy factory.


“I can’t see a thing,” Irene mumbled, repressing the urge to leave the place as soon as possible.


“We have to wait for our eyes to get used to the dark. It won’t take long,” Ismael replied without much conviction.

The seconds went by, yet the darkness cloaking Lazarus’s factory didn’t fade. Irene was trying to work out which direction to go when she noticed a figure rising a few meters away.


A spasm of terror gripped her stomach.


“Ismael, there’s someone here,” she said, clutching his arm.


Ismael scanned the darkness and held his breath. A figure was suspended in the air, its arms outstretched. It was swinging slightly, like a pendulum, and its long hair snaked over its shoulders. With shaking hands, Ismael felt around in his jacket pocket and pulled out a box of matches. He lit one, and for a second they were blinded by the flame. Irene held on to him tightly.


What the light revealed sent a wave of intense cold through Irene. Before her, swinging in the flickering light of the match, was her mother’s body, hanging from the ceiling, her arms reaching for them. Irene thought her knees would give way. Ismael held her.


“Oh, God!”


The figure slowly turned, revealing the other side of its features. Cables and cogs caught the faint light; the face was divided into two halves, and only one of them was finished.


“It’s a machine, only a machine,” said Ismael, trying to calm Irene down.


Irene stared at the macabre replica of Simone. Her features. The color of her eyes, her hair. Every mark on her skin, every line on her face had been reproduced on this expressionless, spine?chilling mask.


“What’s going on here?” she murmured.


Ismael pointed to what looked like a door leading into the main house at the other end of the workshop.


“This way,” he said, dragging Irene away from that place and the figure dangling in midair.


She followed him, still dazed by the apparition. A moment later, the match Ismael was holding went out, and once again they were enveloped in darkness.


As soon as they reached the door leading into Cravenmoore, the carpet of shadow that had spread beneath their feet slowly unfurled behind them, becoming thicker and sliding along the walls like a liquid black shroud. The shadow slithered toward the workshop table and crawled over the white veil covering the mechanical angel Lazarus had shown Dorian. Slowly, the shadow slipped under the sheet, and its vaporous mass penetrated the joints of the metal structure.


The shadow’s outline disappeared completely into the metal body. A layer of frost spread over the mechanical creature, covering it with an icy cobweb. Then, slowly, the angel’s eyes opened in the dark, two burning coals glowing underneath the veil.


Little by little, the colossal figure rose and spread its wings. Then it placed both feet on the floor. Its claws gripped the wooden surface, leaving scratches as it went. A curl of smoke from the burned?out match Ismael had thrown away spiraled into the bluish air. The angel walked through it and was soon lost in the darkness, following Ismael and Irene’s steps.


The Watcher in the Shadows © Carlos Ruiz Zafón 2013


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