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The Angel's Game Hardcover – June 16, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 556 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Book Description
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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (June 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385528701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385528702
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (556 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I opened this book expecting a novel similar to The Shadow of the Wind. That was silly of me, and The Angel's Game is very different. The story is much darker and uses many more supernatural elements. There are sections that you read and then think you must have dreamed as they are barely ever alluded to again. There is a great deal of physical violence and disturbing psychological drama. It is an angry book, full of theological debates and the hard truth that sometimes, things just don't end perfectly. There are so many characters- and some characters with many personae- that it is easy to get confused. In fact, I must admit, I'm not entirely sure exactly what happened in the last fifty pages or so. I feel like the writing just kept going and when you thought things were being resolved, it ended up they were not, and then you were right back in the midst of the teeming, complicated plot once more.

But wow, what a writer. From the first page, you are once again immersed in Ruiz-Zafon's writing style. He is so atmospheric. The Barcelona I visited some years ago, that was light and bright and full of fun architecture, is here transformed into a Gothic vision of darkness and depression and cruelty. Ruiz-Zafon is masterful at creating a sense of place in his books. He knows his way around Barcelona with his eyes closed, and the city is just as much a character in the book as anyone else.

The Angel's Game is in a different vein entirely than The Shadow of the Wind, but the same themes (and at least two characters) resonate in both. Most importantly, both novels detail the power that books can have in our lives, the voids they fill within us, and the myriad methods by which they can mold us- for better or for worse.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I first opened my copy of "The Angel's Game", I could barely wait to read it. I'd enjoyed "The Shadow of the Wind" so much that the idea of another book about books, and forbidden loves and obsession (with just the gentlest seasoning of snarky social commentary) - seemed a gift beyond measure.

And when the first page offered up the following sentence, "Don Basilo was a forbidden-looking man with a bushy moustache who did not suffer fools and who subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency," my enthusiasm grew.

Which is, of course, my way of easing into my disappointment in this book. True, my expectations were too great, but while I enjoyed "The Angels' Game", I felt it took on a bit too much and lost some of the main threads that "Shadow of the Wind" wove so masterfully.

The first 2/3 of the book contained everything I was looking for. The lush descriptions of Barcelona, of the characters that inhabit her, the rising crescendo of the plot. All kept me turning the pages. Here, too, I found the most insightful comments...the ones that are spoken in a fictional 1920's Spain but seem just as fitting in today's world.

"...like all wars, was fought in the name of God and country to make a few men who were already far too powerful when they started it, even more powerful."

And even truer, "What a mess the world is in," cried the man, reading the news in his paper. "It seems that in the advanced stages of stupidity, a lack of ideas is compensated for by an excess of ideologies."

I am realizing as I go through my notes that I enjoyed these side notes almost more than the main story of the book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Anyone who has never read Zafon really should. It's rare for an author to have a way with words as he does and what makes his ability all the more amazing is the knowledge that these are works in translation. I can only imagine what a wonder his books must be in their original Spanish and his writing is so beautiful that it makes me want to learn the language simply so I can read his works in the original.

I read and loved "The Shadow of the Wind" and when my husband asked me if this book was better, I thought for a moment and told him I thought it was as good. It's hard to really judge which is better as this work is quite different from "The Shadow of the Wind".

Part of what really drew me into this work were its uncanny similarities to the works of Poe. Zafon imbues the very city of Barcelona with such menace that it seems like a beast, hulking over its inhabitants. So many of the pages are suffused with a sense of dread and there are scenes in the book that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. There are definitely more elements of the supernatural in this work than I remember there being in "The Shadow of the Wind", but that's not to say that this is a ghost story.

At its heart, this book is about obsession. Zafon delves into some pretty heavy questions about the nature of human obsessions with everything from faith and religion to literature to love. In reading about David's obsessions, it is easy for the reader to reflect on his or her own forms of obsession. Zafon has created a deeply psychological work that leaves the reader wondering just how reliable David Martin's narrative really is. How many of the horrors that he experiences are the product of his own imagination?
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