In his new novel, The Angel's Game, author Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind) brings readers into a world full of danger and suspense, obsession and forbidden love. This is 1920s Barcelona, a gothic city full of sordid stories and an inspired young man willing to tell them all.
The Angel's Game is told from the perspective of David Martin, a Barcelona youth who makes his living as a journalist and writer of pulp fiction novels. Martin survives his troubled childhood by taking refuge in stories until — at the age of seventeen — he gets the chance to begin writing his own. Under the patronage of Pedro Vidal, Martin makes a quick rise to fame by telling tales of Barcelona's gritty underworld.
When Martin signs a contract to write a series of "penny dreadfuls" under the pseudonym Ignatius B. Samson, he moves from his abysmal lodgings into the abandoned mansion where he has dreamt of living for years. The gargoyle-studded residence, with its "gloomy and somewhat melodramatic appearance," seems to be straight out of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations—a book whose themes are artfully evoked throughout The Angel's Game.
A foreign publisher named Andreas Corelli approaches Martin and asks him to write a story unlike any other, offering him a fortune up front and even more upon delivery. Not long after Corelli makes this proposition, the publishing house to which Martin is bound burns to the ground, nullifying the terms of his current contract. As if he's signed a deal with the devil himself, David Martin now seems headed down a path towards destruction, with little clue about how his journey began or how it will end.
Fans of Zafón's bestselling The Shadow of the Wind will find some that book's literary undercurrents resurfacing in The Angel's Game. Barcelona's Sempere & Sons bookstore is a refuge where David Martin spends quite a bit of time, and The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is the place where this book's narrator pulls a mysterious religious manuscript from the stacks. Soon after Martin has the book in his possession, he begins to see frightening similarities between it and the book he's been commissioned to write.
Martin works devotedly on the project that seems to steal his soul and, perhaps, his sanity along the way. As he tries to uncover the secrets surrounding his commission, the writer becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders that have occurred since he began writing for the ever-elusive Corelli. Instead of gaining clarity on the circumstances of these violent crimes, this book's narrator — and its readers — will begin to wonder whether or not he is responsible for them.
Readers of The Angel's Game will delight in the plot, with its twists and turns as exciting and terrifying as an old wooden roller coaster. Zafón draws us along with interesting transitions that never feel overly contrived, and his knowledge of Barcelona's nooks and crannies undoubtedly give this book its visceral texture. Wherever this story seems to go, readers will want to follow, even if they're as unsure as Martin is about what's going on.