Here I present to you two book reviews for the price of one. Back in June, I reviewed Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind. In addition to this novel, he wrote two follow-up books–the second being a sort of prequel to the first and the third was a continuation of the first (when it comes to chronology).
With The Angel’s Game, I found myself a little conflicted. The writing was strong and the story was, indeed, compelling. We follow David Martín through most of the 1920s. He is a young man who writes serial stories for one of the newspapers until he is unceremoniously sacked. He signs a long-term contract that requires him to write penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym, a vocation that he dislikes but makes him wealthy. Martín is introduced to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (a place featured in The Shadow of the Wind) where he finds a book titled Lux Aeterna. The book is credited to D.M. but the identity of the author ends there (these initials are shared with the protagonist). This is where everything starts to twist and turn. Martín is approached by a mysterious French publisher who wants him to write a book for him and he will be greatly compensated. After reluctantly agreeing, Martín is thrown into a strange mystery that involves murder, identity, and reality. Like previously mentioned, I have a mixed opinion of this book. It was well-written, the city of 1920s Barcelona and Fermín Romero de Torres’s house were pulsating with a strange life, but I think Zafón might have carved himself a story too complicated to adequately tie together. Racing around, Martín is trying to solve too many mysteries. The novel began to lose its hold toward the final third. I was happy that I had read the book till the end and what, was at first, a really intriguing and gripping story, lost its footing at the end. However, this book still left me curious to read the third and final act of Zafón’s trilogy.
The Prisoner of Heaven concludes the trio and begins in 1957 with the characters from the first book carrying on with their lives. What problems Zafón had with the twists and turns of the previous book, he seems to give himself and the characters too little of a mystery. Of course, it was wonderful to revisit the Barcelona of the other novels and the slew of characters that ooze out of the city’s pores, but the essence of the previous two books vanish with this one. The plot jumps back in time when Fermín Romero de Torres is imprisoned in the 1940s. He meets a fellow prisoner who ends up being David Martín, whose career as a novelist is being taken advantage of by the prison governor. Zafón presents an interesting plot line with the villainous prison governor that is never explored or resolved. It is almost as if he hoped the reader would forget about this completely. This book is a wee bit shorter than the other two and I can’t help but wonder if he just wasn’t able to deliver for his publisher. The Prisoner of Heaven read more like an idea the novelist had for the back story of Fermín Romero de Torres and for the outcome of the luckless Martín from the previous novel.
These are Numbers 4 & 5 on The [International] Reading List.