Review: The Angel’s Game 3*** but 4.5 for intrigue!

Categories: All things Cultured, Books, Spain

I am a huge fan of A Shadow of a Wind – I always recommend it to anyone I know going to Barcelona.  So after seeing Carlos Ruiz Zafón, speaking at the local Indigo talking about his second book, I was immediately had it on my list of must reads.  And just like SOTW, the city just jumps out of the pages of ‘The Angel’s Game‘ and you can vividly imagine all the streets and shops from the story – albeit a lot darker because of the setting.  I wasn’t disappointed! The book had me hooked but I did have one gripe with the book in that it is even longer than SOTW and that Zafon seemed to have even more characters than the his first book making it a bit hard to follow.  But I thought it was worth the intrigue and questions you are left with at the end.

Angel’s Game follows a similar method as SOTW in that the events of the main character (David Martin) seems to parallel a person (in this case Marlasca) who he seems to know of only by happenstance. It isn’t so much a prequel, but it does take place before SOTW and there are some great tie ins between the two books (Zafon is supposed to be writing four in total). For example Siempere (the main character in SOTW) is referred to, and excitingly, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (one of my favourite concepts!)

Like everyone else, I had a LOT of questions at the end. Well here’s my theory on the whole thing…
The ‘boss’ is the devil and goes by the name Andreas Corelli. He can only be seen by people who are either being enticed or are already possessed by the devil. Over the first part of the book, Martin is slowly slipping into darkness, and then to cure himself, he sells himself to the devil. For me, this theory can help explain a lot of the ‘Questions’ – at the end are the still unexplained ones for me…
Why doesn’t Corelli age?
Since Corelli (the devil) exists in the mind of the person he has possessed, he takes the form of Corelli. The possessed (or those who are inclined to the ‘darkness’) when looking at another person, will see Corelli instead of that real person. So when Martin looks in the mirror and sees Corelli, he is actually seeing himself possessed.  The same with when Christina freaks out. She is at Martin’s house because she has being driven by the devil, and thus she sees the devil in Martin as well and that is what drives her to madness.

My explanation also solves why Martin sees Corelli in the background of the picture of the actress Irene Sabino. It was actually Marlasca in the picture, but at the time of the picture, Marlasca was possessed by the devil. Since at that time, Martin was being drawn to darkness, he was able to see Corelli in the picture.

Significance of the Brooch
I think the brooch also indicates when he is possessed and when he wasn’t.  Martin while possessed by the devil, is the one who kills many of the people who have knowledge of Marlasca while Marlasca was possessed. That was the point of Grandes comments on the brooch Martin is wearing ‘I’ve seen you wearing it on your lapel ever since I met’ – it kind of agrees with the theory, since Martin always saw Corelli wearing it.

What is the significance of the multitude of books in the Cemetery of Books?
I think this was to drive home that the story repeats over and over.  The devil has enticed people throughout time to tell stories to lure others to ‘the dark side’.  many of these books have made their way to the cemetery. and the laughter that is heard is that of the devil. Remember that ‘every book retains a soul’ and in the case of these ones, it is the soul of Corelli.

We can see the similarity in the stories. My theory on this, is that events continuously repeats itself with the previously possessed attempting to overcome the currently possessed.  Thus just as Marlasca had been possessed, and then burned alive by Martin – Jaco had once been possessed and then burned by Marlasca (confusing eh??). In order to free yourself from the bond, you must get rid of an innocent. 

The devil’s prey:
  Martin (present day), Marlasca (in the past)
The Innocent Soul: Vidal,Salvador
Previously possessed: Marlasca (present-day), Jaco (in the past)
The Girl (a good story always has one.): Cristina, Sabino

Who cut Christina free and what made her go crazy when she read the book?
I think this was Martin – in his mind he entered the ‘already open’ doors to the hospital, where in fact it was himself as Corelli who opened it.  While he was possessed as Corelli, he cut Cristina out who somehow escaped through the window and was running from Martin who she could see was Corelli.  It seems that in many instances, Martin would ‘black out’ when the actual violence occurred. For example when the people were beaten with the pipes, or his publisher’s offices were torched.  He recollected the event up until the violence, but not the violence itself.
There are some questions for me still though
How does Christina come back as a child?? I’m lost at this. I simply don’t get it… the ‘boss’ says it is his ‘revenge’…  if he has the power to bring people back to life, why didn’t he do that before? Maybe for Ishmael the son of Marlasca?

The aging thing
I agree with others in that how did Martin fall for it? When he met Marlasca who was pretending to be Salvador, if he hadn’t aged, how did Martin no question it? Salvador would have aged. Unless Salvador was much younger than Marlasca initially, but that was said anywhere.

Other than just trying to confuse the reader or introduce false mysteries, why give Diego Marlasca and David Martin the same initials and refer to those initials in the story as though it matters?  For that matter, why introduce so many confusing characters. I still don’t see the need all the lawyers and the strange behaviour of the secretary, Chloe, etc.

What is the significance of the dead doves in the different scenes?
A dead dove is an omen of death, but it seems a bit odd that Zafon added in such a calculated image.  In general, his stories are dark, but don’t really use blatant imagery to achieve his effect (for example, the angel of death wasn’t walking with a scythe…). Was there another meaning to the dead doves?
Chloe, the Witch, the Dr. Trias (kinda amusing the name is so close to ‘triage’…)
These were WTF? moments for me… I’m thinking that the house might tie in to a future book or something… I was lost…

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  • This book sucks, I was very disappointed in the ending. I only finished it because I was hoping for answers that never materialized. Ever since the brothel scene in the early going, not much makes much sense. I can’t sanction interminable ploys at edification in the name of artistic endeavour that are so consternatingly irrelevant to the story. I’m left not even knowing what the story is about. As some suggest, picking and choosing whatever I want to believe or discard from the plot because of the protagonist’s fluctuating mental condition is not my idea of authorship. It is ridiculous for the reader to try to create their own story out of the verbiage. This book needs to be cleaned up, tidied up, tied up or just thrown out. I think the epilogue is a weak attempt at justification but an apology would be more appreciated. It makes me wonder if the story editor was out for a whiz when the storyline either passed over his desk (or over his head.) I think the professional critics who praised this book are whores to their trade for the almighty dollar, the more they trade and sticks to their hands the better. They should tell us: ‘If you want to read something that is so incomprehensible as to be ridiculous, here’s an excuse of a book which epitomizes the genre.’

    It makes me angry that I have wasted so much time when there is so much good literature out there to read.

    I hope this comment saves just one reader the same dilemma.

    • wow – you definitely had a strong opinion!
      I agree – I don’t like when authors ramble and leave so many questions to the reader to figure out. I think when he wrote this, he knew that he was going to write more books now, so unlike the first book that was self-contained, he’s trying to tie the remaining books to each other. Problem is that I kinda felt unsettled too. I really liked the book, but don’t know if I would read the third installment for fear that it might leave me just as unsettled and with even more questions. Even with TV shows, i lose interest if threads don’t get settled eventually… (Twin Peaks anyone??).

  • Oh! I never even considered your last point! that maybe some of the storylines are there to tie into the future books. He’s supposedly writing this as a trilogy right?

  • I hate to admit this, but I’ve never read Great Expectations, so I’m at a loss to try and say what Zafon’s reasoning was. maybe it is just to pay homage to a book he likes?

  • Yes, the possibility is there that Zafon is crazy…
    I agree with Angel that two remaining books will clear up some of these questions. I think I’ll be reading them regardless. I think the third one already has some rumours about it.

  • Lol – that last commenter seems tormented. Read this book if want to go crazy like the character in book. Maybe that is point? I think it is easier to read in Spanish.
    I agree. Corelli is Devil and is in Martin’s mind. Martin is the murderer and kills Cristina. Cristina at end is not same i don’t think. I think it will be explained in another book.

  • I hated this book!
    ok, fine maybe not hated the whole book – but I hated the ending. The whole thing just fell off a cliff and made no sense. The whole story, I was trying to guess what the cause of all it was. At first I thought Corelli was a real person, but just sinister and then thought that it was in Martin’s head, but the picture of Corelli ruined that for me. In the end I just think that Martin was crazy. So is Zafon…

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