Book Review: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A warm summer afternoon in Damascus demands no less than losing oneself to the pages of a book. I stretched out on the balcony, amidst a light breeze and under the golden glow of the sun, to read The Angel’s Game, the new masterpiece by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of Shadow of the Wind, a book that held me captive to its timeless tale a few years back.

The sound of car horns and traffic gradually faded away as I was absorbed into the world of David Martín, a writer amidst the turbulent and gothic 1920’s Barcelona, the mysterious circumstances, his house, and the sinister and playful characters around him.

Like Shadow of the Wind, the centerpiece puzzle of the story is in a book that has been retrieved from The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a hidden, secret library that is home to a labyrinth of books that would have otherwise been destroyed and forgotten. Unlike Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game is a far more sinister and mysteriously interesting read.

The cleverly written plot, told in the first person from David’s perspective, crosses the lines between what is real and what is perceptually feasible, and even metaphysically impossible. The encounters with Andreas Corelli, the unusual antagonist – for the lack of a better term – are peculiarly intense, often filled with philosophical and theological arguments that would further change the course of the story, and David’s psyche, which, I believe, is the main antagonist. These chilling, schizophrenic stretches of narration are split by a troubled (and frightening) love story, interesting well-developed relationships with other characters, and a very endearing friendship between David and Isabella, his apprentice, which form the bulk of the much needed comedy.

As the story progresses, it becomes impossible to put down – I had to finish the book in three sittings, across three days, out of fear of forgetting the minute details that make the story’s convoluted plot. Relationships, people, events, and even Shadow of the Wind (though no prior reading is required, the final puzzle piece snaps in if you did) all seemingly irrelevant and scattered, become intertwined, either in David’s mind or in reality – one could not tell until the very last paragraph of the book – all set against a beautiful yet morbidly dark Barcelona.

It’s a book that’s certainly should not be missed.