The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I've mentioned before how much I loved Shadow of the Wind, Zafon's first novel translated into English. The prequel, The Angel's Game (which was published after Shadow of the Wind) is equally as compelling, albeit much darker. What makes the The Angel's Game so good is the story, which isn't to say it's not well-written because it is. But for me it was the story that sucked me in. Chapter by chapter I just wanted to know what would happen next.

We meet David Martin when is a struggling writer living in Barcelona circa 1917. Within the first page Martin states, "A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story... A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price." As the story unfolds, Martin is commissioned to write a book for a mysterious publisher of religious texts and eventually realizes that by accepting this work he has in fact put a price on his soul.

Like I said, the story itself will suck you in. Zafon is an amazing story teller. His novel is filled with intrigue, suspense and murder (which make it a great summer read) but also offers much more than that. The Angel's Game speaks to the power of literature and it's importance. We are taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where Martin says, "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 soul 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...". If you are a reader who loves the idea of books - a reader who loves the smell and the feel of books and the notion that they can offer everything from understanding to compassion to an entirely new outlook of the world - then you will like this book. There were also many literary allusions throughout the novel, from Great Expectations to Jane Eyre, which, as a book lover, I really enjoyed.

I also want to mention that this book offers a strong sense of place, by which I mean the city of Barcelona is almost like a character itself. The backdrop of this city adds a lot to the novel, both in terms of beauty, uniqueness and mystery. As far as places go, this seems like a great one.

All in all I really liked this book. However, I think I liked The Shadow of the Wind more. So, if you haven't read either I suggest you start with the ladder. Each offer two unique story lines that focus on two different yet connected generations, but one isn't necessary to understand the other.

The New York Times also did a nice review of the book that you can read here. I enjoyed the ending, when they say, "The pleasures of “The Angel’s Game” are guilty ones. As he did in “The Shadow of the Wind,” Ruiz Zafón provides, along with sex and death, a nice slide show of old Barcelona, a handful of affectionate riffs on favorite books (among them that other, very different mysterious- benefactor tale “Great Expectations”) and a pervasive sense of the childish joy of credulity — of surrendering to a story and letting it take you where it will, whatever the consequences."

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Year of First Edition: 2009


  1. Thanks for the review. This sounds like an interesting book. Just added it to my TBR list.


  2. I hear so much about these two books that I think I will have to read them really soon. This one sounds really amazing, the sort of thing I would enjoy. Ill add it to my wish list with a link to your review

  3. I tried to read The Shadow of the Wind last year but the writing bothered me somewhat and I couldn't get into it :\ Maybe I need to try again sometime?

  4. Janna - That's great!

    Becky - Thanks so much! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Nymeth - Usually if I can't get into a book after 150 pages I'll put it down. If you feel like you didn't give it a chance, try it again. However, it's not for everyone. I've from a couple people who didn't like it. But I do recommend it :)

  5. You've made me really want to read this book, and considering you've told us that Shadow of the Wind is even better ... well... Let's just say I'm heading off to the library soon...

  6. Friande - Go! Go now! Get them at the library!

  7. So glad you liked this book, I loved it! Zafon has crafted a very different storyline in The Angels Game and yet this and The Shadow of the Wind have such strong connections running through them (the city of Barcelona, some of the characters, the cemetery of lost books, etc) and yet they stand alone so well. I just cannot wait to read the next book by Zafon. Thank you for the review, Brenna. I love your blog and am so glad I dropped by.

  8. As promised here I am, your review has tempted me even more. I am certainly looking forward to reading this after enjoying The Shadow of the Wind so much.

  9. oh goody another zafon fan!!! have you read his latest one that's been translated finally ~ the prince of mist? it's his first ya that brought him so much fame and notoriety in spain...won several awards i believe and has the same dark, shadowy sense to it as in shadow of the wind and angel's game. But oh, nothing could ever compare to shadow of the wind for me. i could not read it fast enough. i did not move to eat that day i read it until i was done...i was inhaling the book! what a fantastic review you did of angel's game and you captured it perfectly - the difference between the two!