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on 12 November 2016
I've been having a foreign affair (evidence in the photo), and what a ride.
It goes to show just how important it is for books to be translated and shared around the world, because these three are great.
This post is about my favourite one though, Carlos Ruiz Zafon's, The Angel's Game.
Where do I start with this book? It's one of the few books I've read that doesn't fit into a given genre. It is thrilling, sexy, frightening and spooky, in equal measure. It is pacey, has excellent and very memorable characters; there is love and loss, and all wrapped up in the atmospheric backdrop of early twentieth century Barcelona.
So, where better to read a book that is set in the fair city of Barcelona, than Barcelona!
No I didn't arrange my summer holiday around my reading habits, (I'm not that sad), but I did wait for Barcelona before I started the book, and it added to the experience.
The novel follows the life the loves, the ups and downs, of the main character, David Martin, as he fights his way out of poverty, start to write under a pseudonym, fall desperately ill, only to be saved by the mysterious Senor Corelli, with a book deal to end all book deals: One hundred thousand Francs, for a single book to be written over a twelve month period. (I'm still waiting for my letter, Senor Corelli).

The deal is struck and Martin's illness wanes, but there is skulduggery abound. His previous employers are killed in an arson attack, his beloved Cristina, is betrothed to another, (his benefactor) only to be driven to despair and . . . (no spoilers here I'm afraid). His muse, a young girl by the name of Isabella, is thrust upon him one night, and I couldn't tell whether she was going to be a distraction, a love interest, or fill his world with further anguish!!
A shockingly good read then, and all the better I think for being the middle book in a three book series, that was so good as a stand-alone novel, that I didn't realise it had a prequel and a sequel, until after I'd read it.
As near to a five star book as I've got this year and I feel certain that it will be in my top five books of 2016.
Highly recommended
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on 6 April 2015
Coming very late to these books, I decided to read The Angel's Game first, as it is suggested as a prequel. I have since read all of this authors works. I have had a look at some of the negative reviews of this particular book & I feel a little sad that others did not enjoy it as much as I did & I feel slightly puzzled as to why this would be. The Prisoner of Heaven, (which is a much slighter work, even though still full of depth & characterisation) rates more highly with Amazon reviewers - possibly because it is peopled by a lot of the same or similar characters to The Shadow of the Wind.

TA'sG is a wonder - is the writer David Martin living a dream within a dream, or a living nightmare? Is he schizophrenic? Has he made a pact with the devil? Can he only remember that which has never happened? The PoH answers some of the questions which TA'sG raised. Oh, & it also asks more!

Each book paints very vivid pictures of Barcelona, all very evocative, even of a time in the city that I could not possibly know about first hand.

One could theoretically read this & TSotW as stand alone books, but TPoH would be too confusing I think.Taken as a whole they all add up to a wondrous experience.

I have no idea where the next in the series will go, so look forward very much to it's publication.
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on 24 November 2016
Tend to agree with a number of reviews here. Beautifully written and translated picture of 1920s and early 30s Barcelona prior to the all consuming genesis of the civil war. An interesting prequel to Shadow of the Wind, and there is much mileage in Cemetery of Forgotten Books construct. Engaging hero and well-drawn supporting cast. But the various shifts in momentum as we move towards the end are just implausible and make suspension of disbelief impossible to sustain.

Like Zafon was on speed - moving from Reservoir Dogs to Boydesque grand biography to Gabriel Marquez magic realism at will. Leaves this reader with an irritating 'what's it all about?' feeling from the mundane (i.e. what is it literally all about) to the opening line of the Bacharach/David classic (i.e. what is the intersection of literature and life all about, [Alfie]?) Problem is one is left with the conviction that Zafon doesn't know the answer on either level, and hasn't even the discipline to throw up some propositions that we could test through reading this book.

I might be wrong though, and it is worth the effort...if you do work out the propositions Zafon wants us to explore, please let me know!
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on 16 July 2013
Not sure whether i should rate this book on its own, or in context as the second of a quadrilogy (last part not out as i write). On its own, it kept me totally enthralled up to the last handful of pages. Zafon comes up with brand new and diverting ideas regularly, and he can write -- this is I think a translation from Spanish, but the style is simple and direct, and keeps your attention. In the last few pages though I feel as if the author just waves his hands to magic up any old ending to bring the story to a conclusion, and I am left disappointed. The last chapter, describing a meeting fifteen years or so after Martins leaves Barcelona is just too easy for my liking -- I could never have come up with anything else in this book, I am in awe of Zafon's imagination, but I could have dreamed up something like that final chapter if somebody asked me to just end the book. In context, I cannot entirely reconcile the end of this book with the events in "The Prisoner of Heaven", the next book in the series -- I hope Zafon will sort that out in the fourth book.
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on 20 August 2011
I read this after Shadow of the Wind, which I preferred. This has a similar gothic tone, and the writing is equally deft. Again, a baffling and seemingly inexplicable situation is organised, the solution too which we gradually learn as the characters in the plot undergo various sadnesses and catastrophes. There seems less pace and characterisation in this book than the first, although these characters are less black and white. The lead character is not always portrayed as particularly likeable, which is fine, but his love interest seems hardly portrayed at all - a big flaw which means the author fails to make us care much about her fate. There is a load of cod-philosophy in the middle that only serves to make the author look pretentious.The biggest fault with this book - unlike the previous - is that for some aspects of the final explanation - or non-explanation - the author relies on what can only be interpreted as the supernatural. I dont mind not having all the answers at the conclusion of the book, but I dont like feeling that the author doesnt either - he has had a free hand set up the situation as he wishes and sholud be able to resolve it.
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on 12 August 2012
I picked up Angels Game after seeing it in Waterstones, not knowing about the success of it's predecessor - Shadow of The Wind. Zafon's style of writing is deep and emotive, and he maintains this throughout. This is exactly what I look for from an author. Thus I was pretty much immediately captured by Angel's Game. Another reason this novel held my attention was that I greatly liked the character of David Martin. David is the main focus of the story and narrator of events. Early on, David is told to be a somewhat unfortunate victim of abuse, poverty and jealously. Bad luck plagues David throughout, and this does serve to keep my sympathy with the character; and although David is later shown to be far from perfect, I found him too complex and troubled to not like.

By making David the narrator, Zafon is only allowing the reader to hear David's version of events. Very soon into the story, David's encounter with a woman by the name of Chloe hints that something is amiss. Can David's story be completely believed? This question - for me - gave Angel's Game an extra layer of depth and interest.

Whether David can be believed or not is left to the reader to decide. Certainly it soon becomes clear that someone is reeking havoc in Angel's Game. I personally wanted to believe that David wasn't responsible, but whether I trusted his version of the story is another matter... Indeed, the events conveyed here and the interpretation of them is another piece of work in itself!

Although I greatly liked this thought provoking, complex and bizzarre novel, I have to admit that towards the end Zafon seems to lose his way a bit. The twists and turns, together with the body count becoming ridiculously high could be said to be a touch trying. I personally think this part of the book in particular cannot be taken at face value, but without wishing to give too much away I'll just leave it at that!!

The conclusion of this narrative - as with the rest of the book - leaves a lot open to the imagination of the reader. I personally found the final few pages quite emotive, but also a little frustrating for number of questions left unanswered. However, despite these slight blips, I really can't recommend Angel's Game enough. It goes down in my top 5 favourite books, and I won't hesitate to return to it in the future.
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on 25 May 2013
Absolutely loved the characters in this book! Every single one draws you in and had their own little storyline so you could imagine them having their own troubles that come with this city. The story was heavier to read than 'Shadow of the Wind' and slightly confusing in places esp when the storyline comes into play about witches and witchcraft but the wonderful writer 'Carlos Ruiz Zafon' is so gifted as a writer to hold you as a reader and trust that you will make it through the storylines that sometimes spirals but no less a great story. Very intrigued to read 'The prisoner of Heaven' with the hint of why the character David Martin went through these experiences.
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on 6 July 2012
This is a strangely addictive book. I absolutely adored SOTW and left it a while before I read this, in order not to compare. However comparisons have to be made to Shadow but I was hooked from page 1. The story sadly falls slightly flat in the middle but then picks up again. I have to admit that the end was a little disappointing, as I felt like I didn't know what the heck was going on, but having since read other reviews, everyone seemed to feel the same. It would have been nice for the story to have been tied up with what one of the characters was up to (without spoiling the story for anyone) but this doesn't happen. Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and couldn't put it down. If you have read Shadow, I would recommend you don't read this immediately afterwards, but it's a must read for lovers of well written fiction.
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on 23 February 2015
I loved Carlos Ruis Zafon's first book "The Shadow of the Wind" in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series and was really looking forward to reading this. But sadly, after a promising start, I found the book a real letdown.
Whereas I found the 'imaginitive' storyline in the first book really held my attention and made you want to keep on reading, this didn't do so and I actually became irritated by the whole thing.
I did finish reading the book and haven't actually read the other books in the series yet, but really hope they live up to the promise of the first one..
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on 29 July 2009
For most readers of The Shadow of the Wind, the name Carlos Ruiz Zaphon on the cover will have them reaching for their library card, wallet or credit card without a second thought. The Angel's Game is set in an earlier time,(the 1920s) yet still involves the bookshop of Sempere & Sons and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

A young man, David Martin, who's father had worked as nightwatchman for the Barcelona newspaper, The Voice of Industry, (and who had been murdered), rises from being most junior office boy on the same paper to becoming a star writer whose Gothic crime fictions become best sellers for the paper. A mysterious Parisian publisher makes him an offer that he finds he can't refuse. It leads him into deeper mysteries, stranger worlds and a horrifying past, and by seeking answers he becomes a hunted and haunted man.

Though I didn't feel that this book was quite as good as The Shadow, it is still a wonderful work. I don't know how much is in the skill of Lucia Graves as his translator, but once the story's grip latches in to your mind you find yourself unable to put it down - even if a killer thirst and starvation is the alternative.

The twists and turns of the plot in the dark mean streets of Barcelona keep you in a state bewitched hypnosis. The characters are full, rounded and real, the surprises never stop right up until the last page.

Read and Enjoy.
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