Lee Goldberg's Reviews > The Angel's Game

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
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Dec 03, 13


The book starts out so well, rich in a character, humor, and a powerful sense of place. It captivated me from the first few pages. I couldn't wait to keep reading. I rewarded myself with it each night. I felt I was reading a truly great book, one I was certain would become a beloved favorite of mine.

I was so in love, that I was willing to overlook a nagging flaw -- in a story where language and the craft of writing mean so much, where the writer himself aims a spotlight on authorial laziness ("Don Basilo was a forbidden-looking man with a bushy moustache who did not suffer fools and who subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency"), I was astonished by the repeated reliance on cliche phrase. For example:

"In this neck of the woods, one doesn't have to run very fast."
"The editorial board had opted to take the bull by the horns..."
"technically, it was my father who paid, but don't look a gift horse in the mouth"
"my father came back and found me alive and kicking..."

It was especially bewildering since the author is capable of such amazing, vivid, and fresh prose. How could he possibly let a cliche like "he let the cat out of the bag" get past the rough draft?

Since the book is a translation, I will give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume it's the translator's fault and not his (one need only look at The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for an example of that).

But the cliches would be a minor annoyance if the rest of the book matched the brilliance of the first half. Unfortunately, the book quickly devolves into relentlessly dull exposition, delivered by one-note characters with absolutely no motivation or reason to deliver the speeches to our hero besides the author's need to relay the information.

Worse, the plot, such as it was, totally collapses into an unintelligble, incoherent mess that isn't satisfying or entertaining. Nothing that was "planted" in the first half pays off in the second. For me, the book was a crushing disappointment.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Rachel Shapiro I totally agree. I spent the whole first half of the book wondering how he was going to resolve all of these mysterious, exciting plot points in a satisfying way. It was only about ten pages from the end that I had to accept that he was not going to pull it off at all. It really was a mess.


Neli I completely agree!


message 3: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz Mara It was full of cliche phrases because that's how people speak in spanish with "refranes." Perhaps that does not translate well to english, since cliche phrases are frowned upon.


Matthew Newton it's a translation remember. It seems to be down to a lazy translator. I read the book in Spanish and there were no such issues.


message 5: by Pat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pat You're looking at this book all wrong! David is wildly schizophrenic and the story reflects his descent into insanity. Is there any other way to explain the ending: an ageless Corelli dropping off a suddenly young Cristina to an ageless David at a mysterious shack on a nameless beach at the edge of infinity? Re-read the second half of Angel with the thought "David is schizophrenic" lingering in the back of your mind. It will become clear that the only way to make sense of this book is to acknowledge that the point of the book is to not make sense.

I think Zafon should be commended for tricking us into thinking that this was Shadow Part 2, when in reality his goal was a completely different concept for a novel all together. If that's disappointing to you, so be it. But I for one feel disappointed when the second installment of a series is merely a rehashing of the first. When a storyline is tied up as well as was the ending of Shadow, I have little appetite for a straight sequel. I'd much rather see a new theme under a similar, broad conceptual umbrella. That's where the Dragon Tattoo series or the film series the Matrix completely failed as works of artful storytelling. The first episodes were great; the follow ups, not so much. The sequels were trying to be like the first which is impossible given where they started, so they stretched and took license and ended up as muddy messes. Zafon wisely avoided that trap by doing something completely different.

The only things Shadow and Angel have in common are a general mystery-detective theme, a gothic conception of Barcelona, the Semperes, and the Cemetary. Strip away those elements, and they're totally unrelated works. They're the literary equivalent of fifth cousins. Say what you will about the technical execution, but I think the thought process driving this book was absolutely ingenious.


Mary My mother, a Spaniard, regularly used these adages and as a child, they often infuriated me; I read every book on direct communication I could get my hands on, but as an adult, I've grown to appreciate the wisdom of these maxims. I have to admit, however, Zafron's use initially made me cringe as I did at age twelve.


Mary My mother, a Spaniard, regularly used these adages and as a child, they often infuriated me; I read every book on direct communication I could get my hands on, but as an adult, I've grown to appreciate the wisdom of these maxims. I have to admit, however, Zafron's use initially made me cringe as I did at age twelve.


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