Translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves.
I loved Zafon's breakaway bestseller novel The Shadow of the Wind and have eagerly awaited the release of The Angel's Game from Random House Canada.
David Martin is raised in poverty in Barcelona in the early 1900's. Orphaned, his love of words is what saves him. The owner of a bookstore - Sempere and Sons - also plays a significant role in his life. David lands a position at a newspaper and over the years works his way up to being a writer. He is befriended by a wealthy, older writer - Don Pedro Vidal - and begins writing successful, sensationalistic fiction under a pseudonym. When a mysterious French publisher, Corelli, offers him a small fortune to write a book that Corelli thinks will change the course of a belief system, he leaps at the chance. David moves into a small mansion that has been shuttered for years and begins to write. But Corelli is not what he seems and David's new home has secrets that threaten to consume him and those he loves.
The Angel's Game is intriguing, combining subtle supernatural elements with an actual mystery. It has a very gothic feel to it. There are many twists and turns, that change the story and keep you glued to the edge of your seat. Obsession is a theme running throughout the book - with love and language. David's love of Cristina - Vidal's wife and the written word are captured by Zafon's prose. His language is beautiful, seizing settings and bringing them to life. I could taste the dust in the bookstore.
The Cemetery of Lost Books plays a part in The Angel's Game as well. For those who haven't read The Shadow of the Wind, here's a passage that absolutely captivated me:
" This place is a mystery. A sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down it's pages, it's spirit grows and strengthens. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new readers hands, a new spirit..."
The ending is another one that I think will gender discussion. It is definitive, but may not necessarily be the one you saw coming.
Although Angel's Game and Shadow have connections, it is not necessary to have read Shadow to enjoy this new book. There are four books planned around The Cemetary of Lost Books - each able to be read as a 'stand alone.'
on June 6, 2010
Carlos Ruiz Zafon's 'The Angel's Game' came into my possession a few days ago when I was desperate to read "something" of the non-fiction selection in my local book store. It took me a while combing the shelves and finally my eyes fell upon his book. Love the cover, rich creamy pages, and bought it without hesitation. Opened it up and started to read it. I could not put it down. Set in Barcelona, with a rich flowing narrative, we get to know, and understand the complex characters like the hero, David Martin, a struggling writer to signs up for a deal he couldn't refuse, and ends up with more than he bargained for. Witty, well-written, and mysterious, the book does not fail to deliver.
A description of the book can be found on the author's website [...].
Ruiz Zafón's gothic psychological thriller takes us on a journey through 1920s Barcelona with a writer named David Martín who carries a lot of tragic baggage from an unhappy childhood. Abandoned by his mother, beaten by his father, desperate to read anything he can get his hands on, and protected by the neighbourhood book seller, Señor Sempere, David has a rather cynical and dark outlook on life. When his father is killed at his caretaking job on the newspaper, The Voice of Industry, David is taken under the wing of a wealthy patron, Pedro Vidal, who occasionally writes for the paper and convinces editor Don Basilio to give the ambitious 17-year-old an opportunity. The result is an ongoing serial story, "The Mysteries of Barcelona", which David refers to as "penny dreadfuls," as well as alienation from older more experienced writers on the paper. After a time, he is pushed out, and, through his friend Vidal, he secures a 20-year contract with a pair of publishers of the most despicable reputation. David begins turning out a book a month for a series called "City of the Damned", and he becomes the main character in a reality version (or possibly a madness version) of his own plots.
Our hero rents a long-abandoned, eerie home with a history of mystery, violence, and the supernatural. He becomes obsessed with his writing, the mystery, and the deterioration of his own health. Between the blurring lines of a bizarre reality and the dark imaginings of David we see something of a Picture of Dorian Grey or a Faustus, where someone has made a pact with the devil. We are led to believe that the evil publisher, Andreas Corelli, who approaches David to abandon his current publishers and write a religious book is the devil incarnate, eternal and continually bargaining for people's souls. When David makes his agreement, his health problems suddenly disappear. Everything and everyone who becomes an obstacle to David ends up dead or vanishes with a trail leading the police back to him.
David believes himself to be trapped in an ever-widening conspiracy of evil. When the police inspector, Grandes, tries to corroborate David's story, nothing checks out, and the last thing Grandes tells him is that the angel brooch David has, throughout the narration, seen on the lapel of Corelli's jacket, has been "on your lapel ever since I met you." By the end of the story, we are left wondering if anything David has told the reader was real or just some figment of his writer's imagination. Was Corelli merely David's own reflection in the mirror? The only people David has not felt jaded about are Sempere and his son, Isabella, the young writer Sempere senior asked David to mentor, and Cristina, the chauffeur's daughter who David loved but who married Pedro Vidal.
The story is divided into three parts and is quite long. It begins as a gentle amble through the city of Barcelona of David's childhood, through the fevered frustrations of a young man who has survived the hard times and made a life for himself despite it all. It progresses through the ambitious years where everything is unsettled and mystery after mystery complicates the plot, then finally, we find our hero leading a placid life on some idyllic island, writing his own story for no reader other than himself. Perhaps it is this story which we have just read. The resolution is mysterious and the reader is left with many questions, but the journey along the way is worth it. This is another amazingly written, complex story from a great author.
on August 5, 2013
I have read The Shadow of the Wind by Ruiz Zafon and I liked that important novel very much. When I started reading The Angel's Game, at the beginning I had the feeling that this novel is also expansive, wise, and would become a classic. The character of Isabella is unforgettable, and the final redemption of the 'would-be' writer Vidal is deeply felt. However, in about the middle the book became messy. There are too many characters, too much betrayal, and the impression that if everyone is bad, then it doesn't matter who is who. A great novel slips into a detective thriller.
Even the main character, David Martin, doesn't know who he is. How guilty is he?
I don't understand the two Cristinas. Why is the mature one so desperately unable to be happy, and who is the child Cristina, who is brought to Martin by Lucifer? Is she a child of human parents,or did the Devil create her to please and torture Martin for eternity?
In every work of art there should be a believable outline. Only then can we believe in the unbelievable,that is,if the feeling of normality is maintained all around. So, I must say that this novel was a disappointment considering the expectations.
on July 27, 2012
After reading "Shadow of the Wind", I knew I would ravenously read anything else Zafon would publish, and I was not disappointed in the least with the second installment of his "Cemetery of Forgotten Books" series. Both novels are stand alones, so don't need to have read its predecessor before you tackle with gorgeous Neo-Gothic novel.
Set in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, "The Angel's Game" follows a young aspiring writer, David Martin, who after making a living writing penny dreadfuls, gets an enticing offer from a mysterious stranger: he must write a book that will change the world... But his love for the beautiful Cristina grows into an obsession that will torment him within an inch of his sanity, while bodies pile up and ominous characters cross his path. Eventually, you start wondering if everything that Martin sees is really happening, or has he gone mad and sold his soul?
This novel is a masterful love letter to Barcelona and a stunning homage to noir fiction: blood, money, books, love, insanity and dark strangers are elements that Zafon plays with to make you loose yourself in a story within a story. The writing flows beautifully: you can almost watch the movie of the book happening right in front of your eyes as you compulsively turn page after page to find out what happens next.
If you liked "Shadow of the Wind", this will not disappoint. Highly recommended to fans of dark, Gothic books, and any book lover who wishes to walk the aisles of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
Reason for Reading: I had heard great things about Zafon's first book and the mysterious plot of this one intrigued me. It has taken me a long time to get around to reading it though as the book was so heavily reviewed at the time of its publication I kind of got tired of hearing about it and lost my desire to read it, however the time was now right for me.
Not having read 'The Shadow of the Wind', I cannot compare the two books. Many others say that the first is much better. This is a very intriguing story; dark, mysterious and Gothic in all the perfect ways: an old creepy house with a tower, a gruesome death from the past, an unrequited love story, a mysterious man in dark, expensive suits and a perpetual atmosphere of gloom. I really enjoyed the story, though I found it slow-going. The pace meandered along and while things became strange and spooky, they never reached intensity for me. It was not a page turner. The magical realism elements added quite an entirely new perspective to a story which could have been written straight without the supernatural involvement for a tale of mystery and madness. I did enjoy the book but I'm afraid I never did really 'get' the meaning of the plot, the overall theme. I thought I had it all figured out quite early, that this was the story of a man who had sold his soul to the devil, and part of me still believes that but by the ending I felt that had been disproved and it left me unsatisfied. It could also be the story of a man's descent into madness but again the ending can disprove that theory too. The ending blew my general grasp of the story out of the water and I finished up with a big 'huh?' and a question mark hanging over my head as to what it all meant. But then the whole story is told by an unreliable narrator and the ending leaves one wondering what, if anything, was the reality. A very strange story but I can say I'm glad I read it. I will read the author again; I just won't expect the ending to answer any questions.
on March 20, 2010
His words flow effortlessly and feel almost alive. Richly descriptive, with a detailed environment faithful to the setting. I was transported, yet never quite felt connected to the characters or the places. Perhaps a visit to old Barcelona is needed. Perhaps the narrator is not meant to be understood and therefore neither are the other characters he describes, characters who all seem to have hidden layers and agendas shrouded in mystery. The story is very fluid and unpredictable, with a plot that often seems almost whimsical. At times it feels like you're floating on a stream of Zafon's imagination, one that meanders, changing directions and speed, but you have faith that Zafon is in control leading you towards a satisfying destination. You hold on, hoping that things don't unravel. It's a ride you want to savor though because there are not many out there who can deliver you so masterfully through such a voyage.
on June 7, 2015
I stumbled on The Shadow of the Wind browsing at my local Chapters bookstore. It was in the staff recommendation section, a very positive blurb from Stephen King didn't hurt either(I didn't buy it there, but ordered it from Amazon, in case you were wondering). Needless to say it was an impressive intro. to Mr. Ruiz Zafon's work. After that first experience with Barcelona in the early to mid 20th century, I wanted to gobble up everything connected to that universe. This 2nd foray into Mr. Ruiz Zafon's world was promising, then frustrating and finally inexplicable. The translation is seamless as in the first novel, and that is where the favorable comparisons end. The leaps and bounds the plot takes either end quickly or are drawn out pointlessly. Was this entry rushed or the was the first book a fluke? TSOTW was very good, once read take my advice move on to something/someone else.
on October 19, 2009
I loved this book for a reason that usually makes me hate them : the ending, in fact the whole book, is ambiguous. You have to decide, at some point, what you want to believe about the story. Is it an insane man going around, creating his own reality? Or is it more? I chose my course with no regrets. But even if you are not thrilled with the possibilities, the author's beautiful prose alone should keep you going. His is a gift of the words, a way to say things that I wish I possessed. Thank you, Mister Zafon, for the beauty of every sentence.
on September 22, 2009
The Angel's Game should confirm for us, as English speakers, Zafon's stature as a teller of stories. The book is darker at its heart that The Shadow of the Wind but has the same compelling narrative drive. The lines of reality and magic, of innocence and evil, or of madness and sanity are crossed and recrossed as the tale progresses.
This is a story that will stick with you. I expect to reflect on it and through it on both high and lows in human lives, individually and collectively, for a long time.