For close to a decade I’ve thought that The Shadow of the Wind was one of the most brilliant novels I had ever read. I had no idea that it was a preamble, setting up for an even bigger story. And I truly believe that The Angel’s Game just scratched the surface; I can feel in my bones that there’s far more to come. I’ve also been reliably informed by TS and Petrik that all of the questions I found left frustratingly open at the end of this book will indeed be answered later in the series, which does nothing but add to my excitement.
“Poetry is written with tears, novels with blood, and history with invisible ink.”
In this book we meet David Martín, an orphan who yearns to be a writer. Thanks to his mentor, Pedro Vidal, Martín is given his chance. But when his writing career takes an unexpected trajectory, he finds himself making a deal with the devil and mirroring the tragic history of another. At its core, Martín’s story is one of intriguing mystery and gothic horror. The atmosphere of this novel was so creepy that I often couldn’t tell if there was a supernatural element to it or if the eeriness was due exclusively to the lush, dark setting. That question wasn’t truly answered, even in the final pages, though its answer was alluded to. I loved the balance Zafón struck between reality and the supernatural; it definitely kept me on my toes.
“Inspiration comes when you stick your elbows on the table, your bottom on the chair and you start sweating. Choose a theme, an idea, and squeeze your brain until it hurts. That’s called inspiration.”
The Angel’s Game was radically different in tone than its predecessor, The Shadow of the Wind, but that made the Martín’s search for answers even more compelling. Where The Shadow of the Wind was a historical fiction literary mystery, The Angel’s Game is, as stated above, a gothic horror, though there is plenty of mystery and romance and even magical realism in its pages. While I truly loved the atmosphere of the book, and have rarely come across such lush descriptions of setting, the mystery was what truly kept me reading. I was dying to know how Martín’s story would tie into Daniel Sempere’s tale, and finally gaining that information was incredibly satisfying.
“The only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he leaves behind him; the person you think you see is only an empty character: truth is always hidden in fiction.”
Probably my least favorite element of this book was the central romance. If it can even be considered central. Martín’s romantic interest came across as incredibly two-dimensional, in my opinion, and seemed to only be there to drive the plot forward instead of serving as a character in her own right. I’m not a fan of damsels as plot devices, and that’s truly what she felt like. I know Zafón can pen wonderful female characters, as he demonstrates beautifully in another character in this novel, so I know he could have done better with this particular woman. Besides that, I really have no other complaints about this novel. Especially since, as I mentioned earlier, TS and Petrik assured me that my questions would be answer in the next two novels.
“Sooner or later, the word becomes flesh and the flesh bleeds.”
As with The Shadow of the Wind, my very favorite element of The Angel’s Game was the role of books, both in plot and setting. Sempere and Sons remains one of the coziest bookshops I’ve come across in fiction, and I wish I could live there. Then you have The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, after which this entire series is named. There’s something so magical about the idea of the Cemetery, and as well as about its role as a setting. The thought of a nearly endless labyrinth of books, whose authors and existences have been lost to society, hidden deep within a city, is enchanting. It also provides a beautiful continuity between the novels, and the repetition of dialogue regarding it lends a reverence and awe to the Cemetery’s existence that moves me.
“This place is a mystery. A sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and the should of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands, a new spirit…”
Zafón also has profound things to say about books themselves, the art of writing, and even the impact story has on religion and philosophy and psychology, all of which I found fascinating. And once again, both the writing and the translation of it are absolutely stunning. This is a book that begs to be annotated. Since I couldn’t bring myself to mark in my lovely physical copy, I borrowed an electronic copy from the library for the express purpose of taking notes.
“We think we understand a song’s lyrics, but what makes us believe in them, or not, is the music.”
I’m so glad I was persuaded to read beyond The Shadow of the Wind. As much as I adore that novel, it’s so exciting to see how much more there is to the story. If the third and fourth installments maintain this level of craftsmanship, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books will undoubtedly become one of my favorite series. The Angel’s Game made me think and question and laugh and feel, and I honestly can’t wait to see what else Zafón’s world has in store.
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