Review: The Angel’s Game

The Angel’s Game
By Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub. Date: June 2009
ISBN-13: 9780385528702
531pp

The blurb from the publisher:

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martín, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever existed—a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between his haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.

The Short of It:

Well told and beautifully written, even a tad haunting at times. This one is a bit darker than The Shadow of the Wind. An enjoyable read, but definitely NOT in the same vein as Shadow.

The Rest of It:

I loved The Shadow of the Wind.

Did I love The Angel’s Game? Not really.

Zafon’s writing is flawless, well-structured and poetic, BUT…something was missing and I cannot put my finger on it. A friend of mine suggested that this is a darker tale, and that this is perhaps the difference. That may be, but to me it sort of seemed too familiar to me. As if the story had been told before and I am not comparing it to Shadow when I say this.

Jill over at Fizzy Thoughts mentioned her holy crap moment when she hit page 441. I wanted to have a holy crap moment but when I hit that page, it was like “oh, that’s not good.” I think part of my reaction may have to do with the main character. I didn’t like him all that much. That’s not to say that he wasn’t well-developed (he was) or that he didn’t have the proper motive for his actions (he did). I just didn’t like him. I guess I just wasn’t wowed by the story. It was a tad predictable. Angel’s Game is in fact the prequel to Shadow, even though Shadow came out first. I think I would have enjoyed it more had I read it before Shadow.

Would I recommend it? Most definitely. It’s still one of the best books I’ve read this year, just not one of my favorites.

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18 thoughts on “Review: The Angel’s Game”

  1. I think the fact that I've almost forgotten the story of Shadow (but still had the memories of loving it) played into why I enjoyed this one more than you.

    Do you think it has the same gothic feel to it that 13th Tale has? And maybe that's why it seems familiar?

  2. It's funny, but I was just talking to my sister earlier and she said she's reading a book right now where she doesn't like the main character either. She's not sure she even wants to finish it!

  3. i haven't read anything by this author…but the premise of this one sounds interesting.

    it's funny…sometimes lukewarm reviews inpsire me to read a book more than glowing ones. 🙂

  4. It must be really great writing if it can be such a good book and still not make it into your favorites. I still haven't read either book, although we'll be discussing Shadow of the Wind at book club next month, so I need to start reading it soon.

  5. My husband and I are reading this one right now, so I only skimmed your review. We are not finding it particularly well written; my husband thinks the translation is partly to blame (a lot of the that's should have been removed, he argues). I'm getting tired of the dialogue, especially between the narrator and Isabelle, which comes off as puerile. I don't remember finding the dialogue so tedious in The Shadow of the Wind, but then, I don't actually remember much about that book at all.

    I am enjoying, though, all the subplots; a couple days ago, I was surprised to see that we're only halfway through the book. For everything that's happened, I was certain we were nearing the end.

  6. I haven't yet read this, but I completely understand your statement that it was one of the best books you've read this year, but not one of your favorites. It sounds contradictory, but it's not!

  7. I am hoping to get to this one this year. I hadn't realized it was a sort of prequel to The Shadow of the Wind (even if written after it). Maybe I'll take you up on your wish and read this one first. Thanks for another great review, Ti.

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