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Friday, March 5, 2010

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Anyone who has never read Zafon really should. It's rare for an author to have a way with words as he does and what makes his ability all the more amazing is the knowledge that these are works in translation. I can only imagine what a wonder his books must be in their original Spanish and his writing is so beautiful that it makes me want to learn the language simply so I can read his works in the original.

I read and loved "The Shadow of the Wind" and when my husband asked me if this book was better, I thought for a moment and told him I thought it was as good. It's hard to really judge which is better as this work is quite different from "The Shadow of the Wind".

Part of what really drew me into this work were its uncanny similarities to the works of Poe. Zafon imbues the very city of Barcelona with such menace that it seems like a beast, hulking over its inhabitants. So many of the pages are suffused with a sense of dread and there are scenes in the book that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. There are definitely more elements of the supernatural in this work than I remember there being in "The Shadow of the Wind", but that's not to say that this is a ghost story.

At its heart, this book is about obsession. Zafon delves into some pretty heavy questions about the nature of human obsessions with everything from faith and religion to literature to love. In reading about David's obsessions, it is easy for the reader to reflect on his or her own forms of obsession. Zafon has created a deeply psychological work that leaves the reader wondering just how reliable David Martin's narrative really is. How many of the horrors that he experiences are the product of his own imagination?

His characters are complex and well-drawn and they exist in varying shades of gray. Even though David is the hero, it's difficult at times to really reconcile with his behavior. He is certainly a dark hero and this is a dark novel. Zafon excels at plumbing the depths of the human psyche, at examining the question of what it is that motivates us to act as we do. Some characters are more admirable than others but very few are pure of heart. They are like actual living, breathing people--usually propelled by their own desires and their own sense of self-interest.

This is truly a very dense work, one that will leave the reader thinking long after the last page has been read. Zafon's gift is singular and he rewards his reader with a story that will stick with him or her for a long time.

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