book review: The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I got an advance copy of this, which comes out in June.  I had read the Spanish version last year, and then I read the first three chapters and the ending in this translation.  My thoughts:

Doesn’t hold a candle to Shadow of the Wind, but it’s still a good ride

If you have not read The Shadow of the Wind, stop now! Read that first! It’s much much better.

In The Shadow of the Wind (SW), Carlos Ruiz Zafón shared his love of books with us, the readers. In The Angel’s Game, he shares his love of the art of writing. He introduces us to David Martin, a young man who does editorial work for newspaper of no repute. Soon David had the opportunity to write a story – in episodes – to the newspaper. Thus begins his career as a writer. A few years later, David meets a mysterious editor who offers him the chance to write a special book in exchange for a ridiculous amount of money.

Zafón captures our attention as before: When I read the Spanish version last year, I had never read a book in Spanish so fast. There is a central mystery, unattainable love, a house with a secret, mysterious characters, and – as always – a deep passion for literature. A wealthy friend replaces SW’s Fermin as the spouter of quotable wisdom. This book is darker than SW: more murders and more curses. In addition, David is less sympathetic to the main character of SW (even during the difficult period of the manufacturer). But we come to appreciate him. Finally, the love of literature feels more dangerous than it did before.

We see some friends from the other book (although the exact relationship between the two books is not revealed until the end), and Zafón continuously demonstrates his other passion (in addition to the literature): Barcelona!

The book’s greatest weakness is that the ending is absurdly abrupt. When I arrived at the last ten pages, I could not imagine how all would be resolved in ten pages. I thought the same at the last five pages. Two of the central mysteries are solved in the last two pages.

That said, I love the way that Zafón weaves an intricate tapestry of a story. He doesn’t just speak of his love of literature and writing, he demonstrates by example.

I read this first in Spanish (El Juego del Ángel). Graves’ translation seems good, although the prose is much richer in Spanish. If you can read it in Spanish (even if it’s work), do it. It’s worth it.

Note on content: There is one sexy scene early in the book. Beyond that there’s some black magic.

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