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The Angel's Game Hardcover – June 16, 2009
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From master storyteller Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind, comes The Angel’s Game--a dazzling new page-turner about the perilous nature of obsession, in literature and in love.
“The whole of Barcelona stretched out at my feet and I wanted to believe that, when I opened those windows, its streets would whisper stories to me, secrets I could capture on paper and narrate to whomever cared to listen...”
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.
Once again, Zafón takes us into a dark, gothic universe first seen in The Shadow of the Wind and creates a breathtaking adventure of intrigue, romance, and tragedy. Through a dizzingly constructed labyrinth of secrets, the magic of books, passion, and friendship blend into a masterful story.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón on The Angel's Game
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
(Photo © Isolde Ohlbaum)
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Fans of Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind and new readers alike will be delighted with this gothic semiprequel. In 1920s Barcelona, David Martin is born into poverty, but, aided by patron and friend Pedro Vidal, he rises to become a crime reporter and then a beloved pulp novelist. David's creative pace is frenetic; holed up in his dream house—a decrepit mansion with a sinister history—he produces two great novels, one for Vidal to claim as his own, and one for himself. But Vidal's book is celebrated while David's is buried, and when Vidal marries David's great love, David accepts a commission to write a story that leads him into danger. As he explores the past and his mysterious publisher, David becomes a suspect in a string of murders, and his race to uncover the truth is a delicious puzzle: is he beset by demons or a demon himself? Zafón's novel is detailed and vivid, and David's narration is charming and funny, but suspect. Villain or victim, he is the hero of and the guide to this dark labyrinth that, by masterful design, remains thrilling and bewildering. (June)
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Believe me, I read it when it came out in spanish. And I don't know a person who can say with a straight face, that he or she liked this book. It is that awful. The worst part is, Ruiz Zafón announced that this is the second part of a trilogy that takes place in the "Shadow of the Wind" universe. I think he shoud just leave it at that, say he's sorry and retire. I wish he wouldn't mess with Shadow of the Wind or, in any case, he shoud re-hire the guy who gave him that story.
From this point, Zafon spins out a tale rife with gothic atmosphere, doomed romances, grisly murder, and more than a hint of the supernatural. From this point, his readers are left on their own, to make what they will of the vicissitudes of David's tumultuous life. Zafon's characters are quirky and memorable, but are not the sort with which readers will easily bond. The exception to this pattern is Isabel, who shines brilliantly from start to dramatic finish. If you need your endings neatly wrapped up and tied with a bow, The Angel's Game is not for you. But if you like to really "think" about what you've read, what are you waiting for? The literary references alone will hook you.
How much is real vs. what is all a product of David Martin’s tortured mind is up to the reader to decide. This is part of the magic and fun of the book. Compare the scene on p.106 with Cristina displaying the photo of a young girl holding the hand of a man, walking on the beach. She finds it in her father’s possessions after he passes, and she says to Martin: “I don’t know. I don’t remember that place or that day. I’m not even sure that man is my father. It’s as if the moment never existed…” Then, go to the end of the book on p. 529 where Corelli says he is punishing David with bringing Cristina back to him as a child. The moment comes full circle!
David is introduced to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and “Lux Aeterna,” by D.M. draws him in. When he begins reading, he realizes that the mysterious mansion he’s been renting was also the former house of “D.M.,” and that very likely he typed it using the same typewriter that David had recently been using. Creepy!
There are too many story lines and characters for everything to just be in David’s head, I think. But, what about all the deaths – his previous publishers; Pedro; and Cristina? Did David do it? If it is all in his head, how do you explain what happened to the previous occupant, “D.M.,” and all of those interwoven stories?
A story of a madman or a story of man who made a deal with the devil? I don’t know. It’s beautifully complicated. I’m halfway through “The Prisoner of Heaven,” the third installment. Maybe I will know more by tomorrow night!