Once more author Carlos Ruiz Zafon has produced a magically brilliant book about books with `The Angel's Game' being a supernatural saga, an action-packed thriller, a detective novel and a love story. - and perhaps even a philosophical or religious treatise. It tells a dark and gripping tale with narrative moving at a cracking pace and introducing something new on almost every page. Though a stand-alone novel `The Angel's Game' (about writers) follows from Zafon's first book `The Shadow Of The Wind' (about readers), but for me it is not quite as good. This is partly because, in spite of its compelling nature, it reads as though at least two translators were employed with varied language that is generally elegant and stylish yet sometimes colloquial and abrupt. However the main drawback is the book's proliferation of sub-plots (of which some are left unexplained) and their complicated inter-relations. This complexity undermines any possible plausible solution and for me it leaves the ending somewhat weak. I suspect author Zafon is deliberately provoking readers to use their imaginations and to arrive at their own conclusions. I discussed this with my wife and we had both interpreted things differently - so read it yourself - you won't be disappointed.
on 10 March 2010
Having recently read Shadow of the Wind I was hungry for more. I was overjoyed to find The Angels Game. There are plots within plots, within plots that leave you dizzy. The story is a dark, Gothic and supernatural thriller that unfolds within the grotesque architecture of old Barcelona, worthy of the surrealism of Mervyn Peake.
I found it difficult to put down and the characters even invaded my dreams. It is laced with nightmare scenarios and impossible situations.
I loved and loathed the hero at different times but wanted him to win against all the odds. Zafon's characters leap off the page and the humour is sharp and often crops up when you least expect it.
The ending left many unanswered questions hanging in the air but was none the less satisfying. Zafon has two more books he is writing in this series. I personally feel that he will revisit the open ends in this book later on and bring them to a satisfactory conclusion; I certainly hope so and look forward to them.
Read, open your mind and let your imagine roam the dark and mysterious world of The Angels Game. You will not be disappointed.
on 15 March 2011
Cor, I'm mad. I feel like writing to the author or publisher, not only for my money back, but for the 3 hours I spent, obsessively reading the last half of this book (unwashed children, hungry cats, unanswered phone) only to find that nothing is answered.
From the moment I started to read The Angel's Game, I realised that we were in the hands of a master - I have since discovered that it is a translation and enormous kudos must go to the translator - from a nuts and bolts writing point of view, this is superb.
However - the plot twists and turns, frequently making one unable to suspend disbelief and ending in a woolly, completely unsatisfactory manner. Perhaps the author and publisher felt that the fame Zafor realized for his earlier book (which I have not read) excused sloppy and ill-conceived structure?
I'm afraid to say that The Angel's Game is a meandering story that whilst both gripping and visually fascinating will leave most readers at the end, gritting their teeth with irritation and feeling both confused and short-changed.
"The Angel's Game" was first published in Spain in 2008, a prequel to the the hugely popular "The Shadow of the Wind". Its English translation followed in 2009.
In December 1917, David Martin was 17 years old and working for "The Voice of Industry", an ailing newspaper based in what used to be a sulphuric acid factory. Don Basilio Moragas, the paper's deputy editor, summons him to his "office" one evening...having heard from Pedro Vidal (the paper's star colimnist) that David knows how to write. Moragas wants a story for the Sunday edition and David has six hours to write it. Mightily impressed, though even at this early stage, Don Basilio expects David to leave the journalism for fiction. David's story proves so popular, he is handed the column on a regular basis and launches a serial called "The Mysteries of Barcelona". The two (deadly) leading characters are Chloe Permanyer, "the dark princess of all vamps" and Baltasar Morel who dispatch the dregs of society to a better - or, as the case may be, worse - place. The readers love it, Don Pedro remains a friend and mentor and Don Basilio indulges him...unfortunately, David's fame and talent is alienating him from his colleagues in the news room.
Vidal had promised to help David wherever he could should David ever decided to become a writer. As such, he was the first person David had ever shared his writing with. Pedro, something of a playboy, comes fron an exorbitantly rich, well-connected and high profile family. Vidal Senior is one of the paper's main shareholders, which no doubt contributes to his star billing at the newspaper. Pedro lives in a mansion called the Villa Helius and is chauffeured around the city. (Daniel is in love with the chauffeur's daughter, Christina - literature's frostiest maiden this side of Estella). It's Pedro who delivers David's first piece of fanmail...signed only "A.C.", it requests a midnight meeting at a place called "El Ensueno del Raval". (El Ensueno is either a brothel or, as Pedro describes it, a "elegent establishment for a select and discerning clientele"). David is unsure whether or not to attend, but eventually goes along. Amazingly, not to mention enjoyably, the lady he meets there is none other than Chloe...his own creation from "The Mysteries of Barcelona". After a brief rest, he wakes to find the brothel empty, though with a calling card in his hand. It contains the contact details for Andreas Correlli, an editor based in Paris, who promises to make David's dreams come true. From here, things begin getting extremely spooky...
Although the book is set before "The Shadow of the Wind" and features a different hero - David Martin, instead of Daniel Sempere - there are some familiar faces. Naturally, there's a return to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books - where Isaac Montfort still works at the front door. Gustavo Barcelo pops up once or twice, although there's no mention of Clara - his beautiful and blind niece. However, David is a frequent visitor to the Sempere and Sons bookshop - run, in this volume, by Daniel's father and grandfather. As the years pass, we even get to meet Daniel's mother - who actually proved to be my favourite character in this book. Where many saw a similarity between Daniel and Julian Carax, the parallels between David and Diego Marlasca are even more overt in this book. (Marlasca had been the previous resident of David's gothic mansion, and had also - apparently - once been employed by Correlli). In a nice touch, the book also closes with an epilogue, dated 1945 - fifteen years after the 'main section' of this book finished and the same year "The Shadow of the Wind" began. However, despite all the connections, the tone of the book is somewhat different to its predecessor - it's just as readable and just as enjoyable, but it's an awful lot spookier. In fact, the author himself did a great job of summing it up : "Thus, if Shadow of the Wind is the nice, good girl in the family, The Angel's Game would be the wicked gothic stepsister."
on 6 August 2010
Carlos Ruiz Zafon is writer who writes about his love for books. Only a confirmed bibliophile could have come up with the idea of the cemetery of forgotten books - a place where any book can be hidden until the right person appears to save and revive it. But this is a place where the books choose the owners and the owner is then bound to them for life.
This is the second outing for Zafon's cemetery - the first was the Shadow of the Wind which is a novel that should grace everyone's bookshelves. Following it's success, big things were expected from The Angel's Game. And I'm pleased to say it doesn't disappoint.
The main character is David Martin, a journalist and frustrated writer who is offered the chance by a mysterious stranger to write the book of his career. In return for more money than he could ever imagine, he must create a new religion. But things take a turn for the worst as Martin discovers more about his mysterious benefactor.
The story begins quite gently and initially seems to be a tale of frustrated love and ambition. Given the expectation from the Shadow of the Wind this gives the Angel's Game quite a slow start but it picks up quite rapidly after this. As more revelations are made about Martin's benefactor the pace picks up, driving the story forward to a climax that leaves you wondering whether it really happened at all.
There are more elements of magic realism in this story than Shadow of the Wind which should endear it to lovers of Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Combined with the universal themes of love lost and ambition thwarted, this makes for a truly unforgettable novel.
on 6 August 2009
In this novel we are taken to the gothic and oppressive atmosphere of early twentieth century Barcelona, seen by the eyes of the budding young writer David Martin. We then follow his path as he finds moderate fame through his City of the Damned novels, under his alias, though scarce riches as his lecherous publishers reap the benefits. His friend and mentor, Don Pedro Vidal, helps him find his feet; and with the beautiful and troubled Christina thrown in a delicate love-triangle is formed.
Onto the scene comes the mysterious Andreas Corelli, known simply as `the Boss'. He commissions Martin to write a religious novel, a fable that will appeal to the masses. As his writing of this work continues, and more and more characters are introduced, Martin finds himself in a world of madness and horror, of parallel events and of one in which his own house has as pivotal a role as any other lead. Questions are suggested about the true identity of the so called `Boss', and the sharp divisions between reality and insanity are blurred. Again we are invited into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a wonderful literary creation, and shown a very dark and sinister side of Barcelona.
The writing is pleasant, uncomplicated and the novel proceeds at a fair pace, at the hands of its narrator, Martin. It follows him from one tragedy to the next, allowing him to briefly find happiness, only for that happiness to be quickly snatched from him, replaced by greater misery. One is very much reminded of R.J. Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels. And the similarities are quite stark. Both tell the tale of a young writer progressing through life, of how he is followed by the unruly fingers of misfortune, of how every joy experienced is short-lived, how he is wrongly convicted, as well as betrayed, and ultimately loses almost everything he has.
It is set before the time of The Shadow of the Wind and indeed there are a few characters found in both novels, the most notable coming at the end of The Angel's Game with the birth of Daniel, who is the same Daniel as the hero of The Shadow of the Wind. The two novels are entirely unrelated when it comes to the different plots, and the link is a small one, albeit quite pleasing nonetheless.
Compared to The Shadow of the Wind this is a disappointing novel. It is well written, with an interesting and intriguing subject matter, but I feel that Ruiz Zafon as perhaps been a little too ambitious. He creates subplots which are shown and then forgotten for some time; characters which are introduced, but not developed into credible pieces of the puzzle, their rightful place in the entangled plot never explained. But the characters which are developed to a certain extent are believable and likeable. Such as the passionate Isabella, the seventeen year old who forces herself upon Martin as his assistant; and the old Senor Sempere, patron of the local book shop and a genial soul who's love of books reflects many a readers own thoughts.
This novel is not as good as his previous one, but still an enjoyable and riveting read; even if one is left wondering what happened to this or that character and why that thing wasn't explained properly...
on 17 October 2011
I can't decide, am I: a) thick b) being shown it's a mistake to read 'out of my genre' or c) at the mercy of a monstrously talented writer who has - literally - lost the plot(s)?!
As an hispanophile author I was drawn to this novel about writing novels, set in Barcelona; although supernatural happenings and body counts aren't my thing, I thought I'd cope. But I soon found myself saying 'yeah, yeah' every time something spooky happened or we were going down yet another over-described gloomy street or corridor 'knowing we were not alone'. Near the end of the novel we were doing practically nothing else, and I became increasingly confused as to who had done what. But I hung on in there as I cared about the characters and had a naive trust that all would be revealed. It wasn't - or not to me anyway.
It's maddening, there's an amazing story in here, some beautiful writing, interesting ideas. It amused me and moved me. Like all good novels, it's stayed with me and I'm not yet ready to start another. But for heavens' sake, what the heck actually happened?
on 23 October 2010
It took me a while to get through The Angel's Game. I wasn't bored but I wasn't overly entertained either. Every night I would read 10-20 pages and then I felt I had had enough. I think the book starts out well introducing the main characters and their relationship, but the main part of the book is just slow and the story never reaches the same suspense level as The Shadow of the Wind. However the final approx. 60 pages is a pleasant surprise. The pace is fast and all of the loose ends are bound together nicely, lifting the rating of the novel from three to four stars. I love the fact that you don't not get all of your questions answered but need to draw your own conclusion, is it just a mind game or is it supernatural...
on 16 July 2011
Really atmospheric story. It's something of a cross between a thriller, a horror story and fantasy. Zafón has set the story in Barcleona of the 1920s and 1930s. The book follows (and is narrated by) David Martin, a young writer who is approached by a mysterious figure to write a book. A gripping read from start to finish.
on 24 June 2009
I loved Shadow of the Wind and wondered if The Angel's Game could live up top it - it didn't. The writing style is flawless as are the descriptions of old Barcelona and for about three-quarters of the book I was hooked. The last quarter stretched my credulity to breaking point with the main character brushing off numerous attempts on his life by armed and very tough police officers, leaving a higher body count than a Dirty Harry movie as the story degenerated into a series of chases and killings. I found the resolution clumsy and it did not explain the various mysteries which had been so beautifully set up earlier in the story.