Review: “The Angel’s Game” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Angel’s Game is the long awaited second book by the author who gave us the wonderful invention of the cemetary for books in Shadow of the Wind. While the Spanish and original version was published last year, most of the English speaking readers had to wait a year for the translation.

Angel’s Game is billed as the ‘prequel’ to Shadow and in some ways it is rightly so but it can also stand alone. This is the tale of David Martin and his struggle through life and his dream of becoming a published and respected author. Life has been hard on David and what he really needs is one good turn and a lucky break. He gets it eventually when he is commisioned by two manipulative publishers to write a series of penny dreadfuls under an assumed name. Throughout his life, David had been receiving sporadic letters from a mysterious, and evidently very rich, fan and patron of his work named Andreas Corelli. Correli maintains he is a French publisher although nobody has ever heard or seen him and mysterious circumstances surround his publishing house in France.

The plot thickens when David, near death from a brain tumour, receives an offer from Corelli, who finally visits David, to write him a book. It would be under his own name and he would receive a small fortune as an advance. David accepts and everything in his life begins to collapse around him.

This is certainly an enthalling and wonderfully plotted story set in gothic, pre-war Barcelona. There are some lovely continuities with Sempere and Sons bookshop and the Sempere family along with the revisit to the book cemetery. Throughout the book, I caught strong whiffs of Great Expectations, which is very obvious, Dickensian story elements and a bit of Paulo Coehlo.

However, I do think the editor didn’t quite do their job properly because some parts of the book didn’t feel ‘tight’ enough to me. Some parts dragged, particularly the beginning and I’m sure there were more parts throughout the book which could have been better edited. The ending was rather … sudden for me and caused some confusion. While Zafon probably intended on leaving an open ending with the rest quite self-explanatory, I would have at least liked a little bit of closure.  It just grew a little frantic with possibly needless deaths. I remember scenes like this in Shadow towards its end also.

Despite that, I really did enjoy the book. I’ll have to reread Shadow since it’s been awhile. I’ve heard there are to be four books in this ‘series’ so hopefully we’ll see one soon and won’t have to wait another five years.

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4 comments

  1. I just bought this book a couple of weeks ago, and I’m really excited to read it. I’ve been waiting for years for this book, so I’m happy to hear you say you enjoyed it even though it could have used some good editing. Oddly enough, I just had the same experience with a book I just finished DROOD by Dan Simmons. I liked it, but I thought it was definitely much longer than it should have been. I don’t mind sprawling novels when I feel it’s warranted, but sometimes editors really need to wield that red pen!

  2. Good review. I’ve been wanting to read this for awhile but haven’t picked it up yet. It’s even at one of my job’s, and I always stop to look but I haven’t gotten it yet for some reason. Everyone I know who’s read it seems to have liked it.

  3. Paulo Coehlo comparison frightens me a little bit, to be very honest! But I’m hoping that it will at least measure up to Shadow of the Wind. How do you compare the sudden ending of this book to Shadow?

  4. Shadow remains a little vague in my memory but I do remember the ‘what the?!’ moment and the lack of reasonable closure in Shadow’s ending. This ending has even less closure and seemingly comes from no where. Could have been better without drawing it out, in my opinion.

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