I stand here surrounded by the tatters of my eager expectation, still confused and a little heart-broken as I try to analyse my reaction to The Angel’s Game.
It all started so well: the lyrical translation of Zafon’s enchanting prose, a return to the deliciously atmospheric setting of Barcelona, the ominous tension of ‘the quiet before the storm’ of the wars both civil and world that wreaked such havoc in Europe. The happy reunion with our friends at Sempere & Sons and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
There is even the ill-fated romance though this time the love is impossible rather than unrequited.
Angel’s Game starts with a relatively simple narrative, less obscured by the fog of gothic mystery than Shadow of the Wind.
We follow our protagonist David Martin as he achieves qualified success in his writing career. But for poor David Martin success is accompanied by misgivings and regret and his happiness can never be complete.
As he seems about to succumb to his misery he encounters the mysterious publisher Andreas Corelli who offers David Martin a small fortune to write a definitive book on religion. Martin accepts and use his new found fortune to move to his fantastically gothic dream house.
I delighted in the first two acts of this book, the language flowed beautifully. I loved the rich characterisations of the newspaper editor, the wealthy but friendly playboy and the unscrupulous book publishers. The portrayal of the relationship between Martin and Isabella was sweet and subtle. I got chills at the appearance of Andreas Corelli, a character who might just be gothic and elusive or something altogether more supernatural.
Martin’s Tower House became a character in its own right dragging Martin further in to the maelstrom of mystery and anguish. I was thrilled by the investigation into the fate of the previous owner while I was convinced that the wardrobe hid a terrifying portal to soul-sucking evil.
At one point I was sure Angel’s Game would be even better than Shadow of the Wind.
But then we reached the third act.
The mystery turned in to wild uncontrolled chase with little point or story development only new scenarios cropping up out of nowhere. The wardrobe turned out to be concealing a rather sordid secret and with that the mystery fizzled out while no real explanation was given for the motivations of the previous owner.
And although I am sure I drew the correct conclusions as to who Corelli was meant to be my reaction to this realisation was simply ‘OK’ not the heart-thumping epiphany of the ‘Aha’ moment I was so eagerly anticipating.
The ending was an anticlimax and all that remained was the almost unrelieved misery of Martin’s existence.