Wow! Just realized this marks my 200th book review. Who would have thought. . ?
I consider Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind to be one of the best novels I have ever read, if not the best. It goes without saying that my expectations for The Angel's Game were through the roof. Still, reason prevailed upon me not to expect something has great and wonderful as its predecessor. After all, The Shadow of the Wind was as good as it gets, and I doubt that even a prolific author can manage two such unbelievable literary works in one career. With such a mindset, I reckon it did help me appreciate The Angel's Game as much as I did.
A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise
in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his
blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his
lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his
head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name
printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is
condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his
soul has a price.
Zafón takes us back to the Barcelona of the early 1900s. Once again, the author's evocative prose offers a wealth of insight into these turbulent times. He paints a vivid picture which allows the reader to be transported back in time and truly experience what Barcelona was like. To manage to do this in two different novels in a row is quite impressive. You can feel Barcelona, smell it, as if you were there.
David Martín makes his living writing popular sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. Forced to produce more and more pulp stories by his rapacious publishers, David cherishes the dream of one day writing the sort of book he has always wanted to write. Renting an abandoned and decrepit mansion with a bloody history, David writes till he falls from exhaustion. An impossible love affair and the spectacular failure of his latest novel will bring him close to the brink of despair. Hopeless, he accepts the offer of a lifetime from a reclusive French editor. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever been published. But as he begins to work on the manuscript, it dawns upon David that there is a sinister connection between this new project and the history of the mansion he calls home. Soon, he can't tell whether he is slowly going insane, or if disturbing events continue to occur around him.
It seems that in the advanced stages of stupidity, a lack of ideas is
compensated for by an excess of ideologies.
Once again, the author's narrative sucks you into this convoluted tale of love, deceit, mystery, and betrayal from the very first page. The pace becomes a bit sluggish in some portions of Act Three, but other than that the narrative is fluid and keeps you turning those pages. The Angel's Game will keep you up past your usual bedtime on more than one occasion, you can count on it!
If you really want to devote yourself to writing, or at least to writing
something others will read, you're going to have to get used to sometimes being
ignored, insulted, and despised and to almost always being considered with
indifference. It's an occupational hazard.
The characterization is once again where Zafón excels in a manner seldom achieved in literature today. Seemingly effortlessly, the author can, in a paragraph or two, introduce you to a three-dimensional character that echoes with depth. I have no idea how he does it, but it's uncanny. As was the case with The Shadow of the Wind, Zafón's deeply-realized cast come alive and leap off the pages.
The only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he
leaves behind him. The person you think you see is only an empty character:
truth is always hidden in fiction.
Simultaneously funny, tragic, and moving, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's intelligence, wit, humor, and deft human touch will compel you to follow David Martín, Andrea Corelli, Pedro Vidal, Isabella, Inspector Grandes, Cristina, and many others, as we plunge deeper and deeper into this web of secrets.
Silence makes even idiots seem wise for a minute.
Although I consider quotes and citations useless clutter in a book review for the most part, there are too many great ones in The Angel's Game to pass up the opportunity to share a few with you.
Inspiration comes when you stick your elbows on the table and your bottom on the chair and start sweating. Choose a theme, an idea, and squeeze your brain until it hurts. That's called inspiration.
I loved the way the author linked The Angel's Game to The Shadow of the Wind at the end. I felt it was done subtly and poignantly. I am aware that some readers found the ambiguous ending sort of off-putting, but I kind of like the fact that we remain unsure as to what exactly took place.
The first step for believing passionately is fear. Fear of losing our identity,
our life, our status, or our beliefs. Fear is the gunpowder and hatred is the
fuse. Dogma, the final ingredient, is only a lighted match.
In the end, though it might not be as amazing as its predecessor, The Angel's Game remains one of the very best books you are likely to read this year. Or any year, for that matter!
The final verdict: 9/10