Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Angel’s Game
First published in: 2009
This edition: Orion Books (of Weidenfeld & Nicolson), 2009
Cover photograph by Fondo F. Català-Roca / Archivo Fotográfico AHCOAC
Cover design by GHOST
The Angel's Game brings the reader back to that darker Barcelona which Carlos Ruiz Zafón introduced us to via his previous novel, The Shadow of the Wind. This time around, we go back a few decades, into the roaring twenties, when young David Martín's career as a writer of pulp fiction (under a pseudonym) takes off and brings him to unexpected places, from the Sempere & Sons bookshop to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (both familiar, if you've read The Shadow of the Wind).
And finally, there's this one place… an old abandoned tower house, its secrets and coldness an inspiration to David, but living there also takes its toll on the author. As David reaches a state of physical and emotional despair, a Parisian publisher named Andreas Corelli contacts him and makes him an interesting offer. While aching for unattainable love and tempted by the royal paycheck awaiting him, David agrees to work for Corelli; he is to write a book that is to change David's life, and the lives of everyone in the world…
What I loved about The Angel's Game is the Gothic atmosphere of the story, the author once again successfully surrounding his characters with what I now consider to be his beautiful, dark Barcelona. The Angel's Game is darker than The Shadow of the Wind, with more supernatural elements, the mood well crafted and maintained throughout the book. I marvel at Zafón's Barcelona. (And this book has made me want to visit it, which I will in December.)
But it isn't enough; the story itself didn't enthrall me as much as the setting has enthused me. The first 200 pages had me completely sucked in, but after that, I really lost my excitement, though the book wasn't boring in any case. It just lost its pace. That, and I was interested to see where this mysterious book Corelli commissioned came in, but it wasn't so much about that.
Though Zafón developed his protagonist very well, I felt he lingered on David's (wallowing in) emotions and feelings, which took away from plot development. David was a slow character in the sense that he did not take much action and he lacked actual passion, and neither's a really good thing for a mystery novel.
By the time you reach the conclusion, it seems it comes too easily, too readily. In fact, when I first read the conclusion I didn't even realize it because it wasn't exciting or shocking enough. My reaction could be summed up with a simple "…oh". While as a reader I felt attached to David (despite his antics; I also felt attached to Isabella, a well-developed and good-natured character), I didn't care enough about any of the other characters to really be shocked about the outcome. It was too random.
The romantic storyline might have moved me had it not seemed so forced and riddled with cliches, though a few twists did manage to impress me. Still, a love story just seemed redundant in this particular book and not very useful for a character so passive. (Little fact: I kept picturing the character Cristina as Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, who's gorgeous and fierce as hell. That was interesting.)
I had read The Shadow of the Wind, and while it was entertaining, it didn't have a significant impact on me. It was just that, really entertaining. I had hoped differently for The Angel's Game, but I must say that there wasn't much of a difference between the two with regards to how they affected me during and after my reading. The Angel's Game was entertaining enough, sure, but it was just more of the same. And because these books are so connected to one and other, I feel a comparison is appropriate, my conclusion being that The Shadow of the Wind is the superior novel.
I must insist, especially if you enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind and are interested in Gothic novels, that you might enjoy this read. In my case though (and it pains me a little to say it because I had higher hopes), The Angel's Game will likely be a forgotten book.
R&R series (and its photos, reviews) © Karin Elizabeth 2008-2009