The Angel’s Game ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Angel's Game (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #2)The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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.

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The Time in Between ~ Maria Duenas

The Time in BetweenThe Time in Between by María Dueñas
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have discovered that I primarily give 3 star ratings when I review novels. I blame Goodreads for not having a 1/2 star rating system, in which case I would give The Time in Between 2 1/2 stars. I am forced to drop this down to 2 stars though.

The blurb on the back of the book is promising enough. Sira Quiroga is a young seamstress growing up in Madrid. Spain is facing a civil war, the citizens are beginning to suffer. She follows a lover to Morocco where she is abandoned and left with debt incurred looming over her head. Slowly she pulls herself out of the gutter and lifts herself up into a more promising position. In the description, as WWII commences and Spain finds itself caught between the Allies and the Third Reich, Sira begins a harrowing stint as a spy.

First off, the novel is 600+ pages and 69 chapters long. Divided into three parts, the novel felt like it was never going to end. Sira doesn’t even begin her delving into the spy world until chapter 36. 36. Imagine, 35 chapters of her backstory that is interminably dull.

The character of Sira herself is as interesting as a shoe or doorknob. She survives through many horrible situations, but yet I found myself barely able to keep myself interested in her saga. There was minimal dialogue, mostly just long paragraphs about what Sira was thinking, which incidentally, was dull as dishwater. For someone who supposedly triumphed even though odds were against her, it was awfully tepid.

Her supposed romance with a character isn’t even delved into or truly fleshed out. She claims to have missed this person dreadfully during their separation, at which I went, “Eh, did she even truly and deeply care about him?” As a protagonist, Sira’s character is shockingly lacking in being fleshed out or in any way dimensional.

Part three (from chapter 36 on) was much more interesting than the beginning stages of the novel. I did manage to read through that section at a much quicker pace. That being said, was it worth struggling through an huge portion of the novel in order to enjoy the last little bit of it?

There are other much more compelling novels about Spain in the civil war and their involvement in WWII. If you want to read a novel about spies, check into anything written by Ken Follett.

Pass by this novel though, unless you are into a long boring read with little pay off.

2/5 stars.

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