The Angel’s Game in the second novel in The Cemetary of Forgotten Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Technically the novel is a prequel (in a way) to Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind– Sempere & Son who dominate Shadow of the Wind are featured in The Angel’s Game, but as side characters. I very much enjoyed “visiting” with the Semperes again, but that was where my enjoyment ended.
I can’t help but compare this novel to Shadow of the Wind, especially since I just finished a re-read of it and then followed it with closely with The Angel’s Game. Both are gothic historical fiction. Both are tinged with romance and mystery. Zafon desperately tries to recreate the milieu of SofW, but fails in The Angel’s Game.
First, the novel opens with the protagonist Daniel Martin, a young and poor man, working at a newspaper agency as an errand boy and eventually writer. The book is divided into three parts–the first sets the scene, the second spins the tale (and is the most boring part, in my opinion) and the third wraps up loose ties (sort of).
We discover that Martin has had a tragic upbringing with a mother who does love not him and a father who dies tragically at a young age. He finds himself mentored by a rich friend and falls in love with said friend’s chauffeur’s daughter–and we know that romance is inevitably doomed.
Trying to pull himself up out of poverty, Martin signs a deal with a couple of shady guys who enlist him to write campy and dramatic serials for their press. Eventually, unhappy with his career choice and wanting more money, Martin decides to seal a deal with a strange man who offers him obscene amounts of money to “write a book that invents a religion”.
From that point, it just gets confusing and devolves into a lackluster series of philosophical conversations between Martin and the stranger Corelli. They attempt to explore the possibility of creating a religion and a belief system that bewilders the reader. Corelli denies the existence of God and the supernatural, but it is clear from the ecclesiastical descriptions of him that he might possibly be *gasp* the devil himself.
Even though one might not think it possible, the story continues to meander along, to the point where I was forcing myself to pick it up and keep reading. Eventually as the book entered into part three, the pace of it gained momentum and I found it much more interesting. Unfortunately, from there to the end of the novel, we don’t receive a full explanation of what exactly was going down through most of the preceding parts.
It seems as though Zafon entirely clouded his writing with symbolism and analogies. We’re left guessing what has *really* happened. The novel lacks any cheerful tone or happiness and in the end, Martin is condemned to a life…well really, if I managed to suffer through most of it to reach the end, I expect you to do so without being simply told the ending.
3/5 stars… But even though I was left disappointed, I will still be attempting the next novel The Prisoner of Heaven.