The Angel's Game

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Angel’s Game
by Carols Ruiz Zafon

It's hard for me to review Zafon's work, because I love it so much. I see the flaws in this novel, it may be a bit too wordy and the plot becomes convoluted in the second half, but I still loved it. Set in the Early 20th century in Barcelona, The Angel’s Game precedes the events in Zafon’s novel, The Shadow of the Wind, but shares a few of the same characters. David Martin is a poor journalist writing pulp fiction on the side, but he dreams of doing something greater.

Zafon’s style of writing just drips with gorgeous descriptions, devious characters and tragic heroes. His gothic tales are so rich I am willing to forgive much that I would fault another author for. Like so many others, I didn't love this book as much as I loved The Shadow of the Wind, but again, I still loved it. Zafon has a few themes he always returns to in his work: the relationships between fathers and sons, men falling in love women in a higher social class, references to classic novels (Great Expectations, The Count of Monte Cristo), etc. This novel is no exception and it includes all of those things.

**SPOILERS: Where I discuss my thoughts on Andreas Corelli**

This year I re-read both Shadow of the Wind and this book and I’ve found that re-reading Zafon’s work is a lot like re-watching The Sixth Sense, once you know the ending you view the whole thing through a different lens. There’s one section where David meets Andreas Corelli and Corelli talks about his strained relationship with his father. He said he was cast out of his home and I couldn’t help thinking this was a clever reference to his father being “God” and Corelli being the Devil.

Also, I forgot quite a bit about the details of David’s brain tumor. The most fascinating thing about this book is its ambiguity. For some it’s clear Corelli is the Devil and Martin makes a Faustian deal for both his health and what his soul desires. For others Martin is clearly a victim of his own delusions, brought on by his brain tumor. It’s possible his hallucinations are caused by schizophrenia or his brain tumor and the entire character of Corelli exists only in his mind. This is possibly enforced by Martin’s mumbling conversations (witnessed by Fermin) with himself while imprisoned in The Prisoner of Heaven. If it is all in David’s mind, then he’s the one who killed his Publisher’s, not Corelli.

Or it’s possible Corelli used David as a puppet and committed the murders through him and then made him forget them. This might be supported by the moment when David saves Isabella and then leaves her attackers in the alley. He hears later that they were beaten with a pipe, just like the one he was carrying. So that indicates he might have done it but then blocked it out, Fight Club-style. There are so many possibilities!

Another indicator that Corelli really is the Devil, regardless of whether or not others can see him; the first author who lived in the Tower House went through the same thing David did. If it’s all in David’s head then the other author’s story wouldn’t make sense. And we see Christina go crazy and speak to an invisible person, which once again suggests that Corelli is there.

So my conclusion in the end is that I think it’s a combination of both things. I think it is madness, but I think it’s caused by Corelli who really is the Devil. He uses the madness as a weapon to get what he wants from people.


I was forewarned by other fans not to rush through The Angel’s Game, as I was tempted to do. Zafon is an author that should be savored. His novels are so full of his passion for both Barcelona and reading that I found myself wishing I could wander the city's streets after I put the book down. I wish so badly that the Cemetery of Forgotten Books was a real place Now that I have re-read this one I feel like I’ve noticed so many more important details and I understand it much better. I have a feeling my appreciation for it will deepen each time I return to it.

BOTTOM LINE: A beautifully twisted and strange novel, The Angel’s Game will leave you reeling and wanting to start it all over again when you finish. The complicated plot isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth it if you loved The Shadow of the Wind. If you read and enjoy that one then I would recommend both The Angel's Game and The Prisoner of Heaven.

“We looked at each other bound by an infinite complicity that needed no words.”

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