The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The world of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novels is a world of adventure. It’s also a world of books. In Zafon’s world people fight each other over books, even kill for them. Writing a book and getting it published, is a game of Byzantine intrigue involving organized crime, beautiful movie stars, occult underworlds, betrayal, self-sacrifice, love, death and revenge. Everything a young writer probably wants the writing life to be and everything an old writer knows it is not.

The Angels Game, translated by Lucia Graves, returns to the literary world of Barcelona where Mr. Zafon’s previous novel The Shadow of the Wind took place. The Angel’s Game is the story of a young writer, David Martin, who becomes a huge success writing serial adventure novels under a pen name while ghost writing the literary sensation of the century. His own novel, the only one to bear his real name, is a failure confined to the underground passages of the cemetery of forgotten books featured in The Shadow of the Wind. David Martin makes enough money writing serials to move into a large, dilapidated mansion with a tower on top of a hill overlooking much of Barcelona. There he lives out a very quite life, writing, with the help of a local girl and the few friends he has.

Enter the devil, in the form of Andreas Corelli, a publisher from Paris, who hires Martin to write a book that will become the basis of a new religion for the fee of 100,000 marks. Soon after, Martin begins to discover a series of very strange coincidences. His tower mansion was once the home of a writer who had been hired by the same Andreas Corelli to write a similar book. The one book Martin was allowed to take out of the cemetery of forgotten books was written by that same writer. The movie star who lived with the writer is connected to Martin’s mentor and one-time provider. People begin to die strange deaths that appear linked somehow to the book Martin is writing. He wants to stop, to break the deal with Mr. Corelli, but soon he is so involved in writing the book for the new religion that he cannot stop, though he suspects Mr. Corelli’s intentions.

Mr. Zafon’s books are adventure novels for the literary set. What book lover could possibly resist an underground cemetery of forgotten books underneath the city of Barcelona? Various people can debate whether or not The Angel’s Game is as good as The Shadow of the Wind, both books are not without their flaws, but the question is beside the point. Zafon provides his readers with a rollicking good time, an adventure high-minded enough to allow his readers to let go and enjoy the Gothic. Is Corelli the devil? Is the tower mansion haunted? In the end, I don’t care as long as the answer to the question “Are you having fun?” is yes.


This review first ran on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B. back in 2009.  In the years since I have not read any more books by Zafon.  Has another come out recently?  I remember both The Angel’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind fondly.  They are both books I just may reread someday.  Based on this review, they sound like something I would enjoy.