Back in 2006, before my blogging days, I read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and it became the book in which I've compared everything else to since. When The Angel's Game came up for review on Shelf Awareness, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. I dropped everything when it arrived in the mail.
David Martin is a down and out writer. He's absolutely brilliant but he's never been able to show that he can write more than penny dreadfuls. His mentor is about to marry the girl he's madly in love with and, by the way, he's dying of a brain tumour. Things look bleak until a mysterious publisher, Andreas Corelli, appears and promises David all his desires if he'll write one book for him. A book that people would live and die for.
David agrees but is perplexed by what Corelli wants from him. Not being a believer in an afterlife, he feels he's writing another sham, "a vaudeville" as the boss calls it. Soon though, David feels that he's being pulled into something more sinister. The book and his life seem to be following the same path as his predecessor, the writer of a book he took from The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. A man whose life fell apart as he descended into madness.
When David starts investigating the writer's story, evil forces put himself and his loved ones in danger of their lives- and their souls.
The Angel's Game is dripping in atmosphere. It's Super Gothic, an old-fashioned creepy tale. I felt like I was in the 1920s. I could feel the buildings hovering over me, see the dark streets and alleyways as I read. Strange, unexplainable things happen to David. The question is: who is the publisher no one has ever heard of before? The man with the wolf-like eyes and smile? Zafon gives us room to make our own conclusions, but I think we know who we're talking about here.
There are parts of The Angel's Game that are similar to The Shadow of the Wind but this is a much darker book. In fact, the story gets darker as the book progresses. It is a violent story as well, with a high body count by the end. But even through the darkness, there is light. David's love for Cristina never wavers. The love story is underneath it all.
I love what Zafon has to say about The Angel's Game and The Shadow of the Wind. I think it sums it up exactly:
"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."
The writing is lyrical, the characters vivid. Even the minor characters, ones that appear only briefly, feel like real people. I wondered what their stories were. So many of the major characters have complexities that make them so interesting. I had mixed feelings for David's mentor, Petro Vidal, at times I was frustrated with him and others I felt so sorry for him. And Corelli... he's just spooky!
I don't think I can say more about this book without sounding like I'm gushing. The Angel's Game won't have to be put in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books but it will make unto my Bookshelf of Unlendable Books. If I lent this one out and never got it back, there would be hell to pay.
The Angel's Game won't be available until June 16, 2009 but can be pre-ordered. Thanks to Doubleday for the ARC.