5.12.2013

The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Angel's Game
Have you ever been blow away be a book? Have you ever finished a book and just had to take a few long breaths to get your feet back under you? After finishing Carols Ruiz Zafón's The Angel's Game, I feel like that. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it because just so much happened in the book.

The Angel's Game is linked to the other Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, comprised of The Shadow of the Wind and The Prisoner of Heaven. All three are set, at different times, in Barcelona. The first book, The Shadow of the Wind, is set in the 1950s. The Angel's Game goes back a few decades, and tells the story of a pulp fiction writer in the 1920s and 1930s. David Martín begins his writing life at a small newspaper named The Voice of Industry, mentored by his rich friend, Pedro Vidal, and the paper's editor, Basilio Moragas. Martín has a knack for writing Gothic literature and soon has a deal with a pair of shady publishers to write a series called The City of the Damned. They're stories of drugs and femmes fatale, curses, dark allies, and lost lives. The story really takes off when a mysterious publisher from Paris, Andreas Corelli, offers Martín 100,000 francs to write a story that will spawn a new religion. It's a strange commission and Martín has serious misgivings about it. But the money is too good. He takes the deal. 

This would have been enough of a premise for a novel, but Ruiz Zafón stuffs in even more subplots. (Though, you just know that they're all going to come together in the end. It's a like a corollary to the rule that if a gun is mentioned in Act One, it will go off by Act Three. In  mystery novel, if a seemingly unrelated subplot crops up, it will prove to be a vital clue to the bigger mystery.) In The Angel's Game, the seemingly unrelated subplot involves Martín's house. Everyone tells him not to buy the house with the tower because it's haunted; bad things happened there. But because it's such an atmospheric building, he rents it anyway. Curious, he starts to investigate the previous owner, Diego Marlasca, and Marlasca's life of tragedy. Because of Marlasca's mysterious demise, Martín begins to suspect that Marlasca was murdered. Little does Martín know, but the conspiracy is much, much bigger than he suspects. 

When I first bought the book, I thought that I was in for a very long read. The book is 531 page long. But as Ruiz Zafón packs in the bizarre characters and shadowy motives, I was starting to wonder how he would wrap it all up. The ending is spectacular, just spectacular. I kind of want to start reading it over at the beginning. 

It was also great to see the Cemetery of Forgotten Books again. The Cemetery 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, ever 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...(519*)
We are given a little more of the Cemetary's history in this book and learn that it has been around for centuries. It's where people who love books put them when others want to destroy them. Initiates have to take a book and promise to keep it safe for the rest of their lives. It's the sort of thing that appeals to librarians and bibliophiles. 

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* Kindle edition.

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