The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Doubleday, June 16, 2009 USA), 544 pages
The Angel’s Game is set in the same world as The Shadow of the Wind, a dark, foreboding Barcelona. This book takes place a couple decades before Shadow, in the 1920s. It’s only kind of a prequel, though. Both books could stand alone. (I don’t know why you’d read one and not the other, though!) David Martin, our main character, is a writer. As a youngster, he started out as an assistant at a local newspaper, but one well-known writer takes him under his wing, recognizes his talent, and gets him his big break.
The dark, gothic tale underscores the various strata of society, stars The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and Sempere and Sons bookshop, threads of a mystery, love, and friendship.
I was excited to read this, coming on the heels of me finally experiencing (and loving!) Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind.
This book is darker, more gory than The Shadow of the Wind; more cynical, too.
Ruiz Zafón’s writing is lovely. Gorgeous, brilliant. It sings.
I found Zafon’s words describing the book’s place in relation to The Shadow of the Wind helpful:
Years ago, when I began working on my fifth novel, The Shadow of the Wind, 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. You don’t need to care or know about any of this stuff to enjoy them. 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. Some readers often ask me if The Angel’s Game is a prequel or a sequel. The answer is: none of these things, and all of the above. Essentially The Angel’s Game is a new book, a stand-alone story that you can fully enjoy and understand on its own. But if you have already read The Shadow of the Wind, or you decide to read it afterwards, you’ll find new meanings and connections that I hope will enhance your experience with these characters and their adventures.
The Angel’s Game has many games inside, one of them with the reader. It is a book designed to make you step into the storytelling process and become a part of it. In other words, the wicked, gothic chick wants your blood. Beware. Maybe, without realizing, I ended up writing a monster book after all … Don’t say I didn’t warn you, courageous reader. I’ll see you on the other side. —Carlos Ruiz Zafón
I love the idea of 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 I agree that the personality of this book is quite different than that of The Shadow of the Wind.
I loved this book. I probably enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind more, but I fervently wish Ruiz Zafón wrote faster!
Ruiz Zafón divides his time between Barcelona and Los Angeles. The Angel’s Game website.
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