BookBrowse Reviews The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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The Angel's Game

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2009, 544 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2010, 544 pages

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A prequel to the 2002 blockbuster The Shadow of the Wind

Fifteen BookBrowse members reviewed this book, with thirteen rating it 4 or 5 out of 5 stars. This is what they say ....
Have you ever begun to read a book and after a few pages realized that what is in your hands is a work of genius? That is what I felt while reading this book (Daniel A). The Angel's Game includes many elements of a Gothic horror story: old houses, hidden rooms, secrets, decay and mysterious characters (Carolyn G-G); his use of language is wonderful and he has a way of making you actually see and feel the surroundings (Brenda d'A).

Although there are plenty of holes and loose ends in the plot, the narrative is surprisingly compelling, and kept me turning the pages. There are enough scenes in dark towers, cemeteries and dank bookstores to keep even the jaded horror fan interested. I think the author succeeds less in his depiction of historical place and characters; It seems the book could have been set anytime, anyplace, and the characters are a little too modern. But it still worked for me (William B).

After reading The Angel's Game I will definitely add his first book, The Shadow of the Wind, to my list of 'must reads'. The author's lyrical style and insightful descriptions of Barcelona balance the darkness of his themes of good and evil, Gothic mysticism, death and deals. Though tedious in places, The Angel's Game is a great read and should be ranked as a masterful classic novel (Marcia S).

If you never understood the quibbling over various translations of classic texts, then you need to read Zafón translated by Lucia Graves. I can't imagine a translator doing more to preserve and convey an author's work, and her deftness with his sarcasm and humor are remarkable (Hollie D).

On the other hand....
The journey, while spellbinding at times, becomes a little tedious. The thematic process of developing Good and Evil is a little overbearing at times. There is no question that Zafón can write a good story, but he would do better to compact his development of the theme and let the story loose (Carol R). I read The Shadow of the Wind before it became popular and was very impressed, so much so that I nominated it for a local area read, but this second novel in a proposed quartet was a distinct disappointment. The story is disjointed and overly Gothic and the characters are unsympathetic and lackluster (Nancy G). 

The Last Word
Many book clubs will really want to add this title to their reading list (Carolyn G-G). For readers who loved The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel's Game will not disappoint. Zafón delves into philosophy, questions of good and evil, the purposes of literature and the personal tragedies that underlie society's troubles. The novel is a page turner that also addresses the issues of the world with intelligence, wonder and even humor. Who can resist a book about books, writing, love and danger? (Judy K).

About the Author
There was no special fanfare when Spanish publisher, Planeta, published Carlos Ruiz Zafón's fifth book (but his first for adults) The Shadow of the Wind in 2002; but the book took off, spending more than 60 weeks on the bestseller lists in Spain, and has been translated into at least 20 languages.  As for his earlier books, Ruiz Zafón says that writing novels for young adults was 'never my natural genre', even though his first, El príncipe de la niebla (The Prince of Mist, 1993), earned him the Edebé literary prize for young adult fiction (it appears that none of his YA books are available in English).

Ruiz Zafón, who was born in Barcelona in 1964 but has lived in Los Angeles since 1993, still has a house in Barcelona.  He describes his home town as a place with a palpable sense of history, saying "the weight of everything, just seems to get inside you. You just walk in there and you feel it, it has an entity." 

The paradox of The Shadow of the Wind, according to Ruiz Zafón, is that it could only have been written in Los Angeles: "I thought it would be a place that would allow me to keep working," but "it turned out to be a place that I found quite liberating. A lot of people talk about Los Angeles as this terrible place and the thing I found is it's a big nowhere. It's a place that becomes whatever you make of it. It's filled with interesting people from all over. And you know, why not?"

Both The Angel's Game and Shadow of the Wind are translated into English by Lucia Graves (daughter of poet and I, Claudius author Robert Graves), who was raised on the island of Majorca in postwar Spain.

More information about The Angel's Game at the official website.

This review was originally published in July 2009, and has been updated for the May 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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