Carlos Ruiz Zafón is masterful at creating moods and settings for his novels. Every word from the beginning of a novel is a brick set quickly and precisely in place to build just the set he envisions. Bricks pile in place as one watches, the scenery almost immediately as it should be — Barcelona. 1920s. Main character. Supporting characters. Then all the facades fall right into their places — personalities, motivations, fears, enemies, friends — and the novel is fully up and functional within what seems like minutes.
Zafón’s new novel, The Angel’s Game, is set in the same place as his previous novel, The Shadow of the Wind, and at a time just beforehand. It shares a few characters and familiar haunts, which is very satisfying for those drawn in by that previous book. Again, it revolves around books and writing, and again, there are tortured souls and emotions and impossible dreams.
David Martin is a young man whose father was killed when he was young; his mother abandoned them even earlier. He has talent and passion for writing, however, and benefactors both benevolent and … not. He is drawn into a strange plan by a mysterious — and wealthy — admirer of his writing to create a novel that is not just a book but essentially a new faith system. In striking the deal, David makes an agreement that he may not want to keep but cannot evade.
Zafón is strikingly brilliant in his mastery of words. He wields them with sure strokes, leaving behind passages breathtaking in their imagery and beauty. He does not waste any words, however; each is used to best effect. Too many paragraphs to relate just left me in awe. One example will have to do, however: “I was beginning to consume more coffee and cigarettes than oxygen. As I gradually poisoned my brain, I had the feeling that it was turning into a steam engine that never cooled down. … [I was] possessed by strange dreams in which the letters on the page trapped in the typewriter would come unstuck and, like spiders made of ink, would crawl up [my] hands and face, working their way through [my] skin and nesting in …[my] veins until [my] heart was covered in black and [my] pupils were clouded in pools of darkness.”
The Angel’s Game will thrill those who have already found Zafón; for new readers, it will assuredly make new disciples.
Rated: Moderate, for one occurrence of strong language and just sprinklings of mild and moderate language. Sexual content appears on several occasions and is mild to moderately detailed.