Monday, August 16, 2010

171 (2010 #36). The Angel's Game

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I was excited to receive this book from a friend, because I had so enjoyed Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. Zafon says when he started working on the latter,
I started toying around with the idea of creating a fictional universe that would be articulated through four interconnected stories in which we would meet some of the same characters at different times in their lives, and see them from different perspectives where many plots and subplots would tie around in knots for the reader to untie. It sounds somewhat pretentious, but my idea was to add a twist to the story and provide the reader with what I hoped would be a stimulating and playful reading experience. Since these books were, in part, about the world of literature, books, reading and language, I thought it would be interesting to use the different novels to explore those themes through different angles and to add new layers to the meaning of the stories.

At first I thought this could be done in one book, but soon I realized it would make Shadow of the Wind a monster novel, and in many ways, destroy the structure I was trying to design for it. I realized I would have to write four different novels. They would be stand-alone stories that could be read in any order. I saw them as a Chinese box of stories with four doors of entry, a labyrinth of fictions that could be explored in many directions, entirely or in parts, and that could provide the reader with an additional layer of enjoyment and play. These novels would have a central axis, the idea of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, set against the backdrop of a highly stylized, gothic and mysterious Barcelona. Since each novel was going to be complex and difficult to write, I decided to take one at a time and see how the experiment evolved on its own in an organic way.

It all sounds very complicated, but it is not. At the end of the day, these are just stories that share a universe, a tone and some central themes and characters. ...One of the fun things about this process was it allowed me to give each book a different personality. Thus, if Shadow of the Wind is the nice, good girl in the family, The Angel’s Game would be the wicked gothic stepsister. [emphasis mine]

That's kind of my feeling in a nutshell. While I found Shadow of the Wind sad but ultimately uplifting, The Angel's Game was confusing and relentlessly dark. The Angel's Game has the earlier setting, just after the first World War. Shadow's protagonist Daniel Sempere's parents are characters in this book, and some other Shadow people make an appearance here. Unfortunately, Fermin or someone equally funny to provide some levity is not among them.

David Martin is the main character here, a writer who sees his former idol get credit for Martin's novel and then wind up with the girl of his dreams as well. Martin is then hired by the mysterious Andreas Corelli to write a book to "create a religion." What follows though is danger and a number of murders, most pointing to Martin. Has he made a deal with the devil?

I didn't really like this book, except for Zafon's descriptions of Barcelona. But, for that alone, I'll be willing to give the next book in this series a try.

© Amanda Pape - 2010

[Image of the book's cover under the book jacket is used under a Creative Commons license AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by ai.dan]

[I received this book as a gift with no obligation to read or review it.]

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