The Angel’s Game is a novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, published in 2008. A sequel to The Shadow of the Wind, the story is largely independent of the previous book and can be read in isolation.
Summary and Synopsis
The story begins with writer David Martín remembering his first success as an experienced professional writer, while working for a newspaper called La Voz de la Industria in Barcelona in 1917. He has the opportunity to write stories of serial crimes in the newspaper Los misterios de Barcelona due to the influence of a famous writer named Pedro Vidal.
David remembers his challenging and unhappy childhood. He was abandoned by his mother, and his father returns from the war as a damaged man. David’s memories of his father are neither kind nor gentle: he remembers a bad addict who was shot dead right in front of him.
David starts working at the newspaper as an errand boy, finds comfort and protection there. The crime series are a hit, and David becomes a minor literary celebrity. He moves into an abandoned mansion in Barcelona and meets a beautiful young woman named Christina whom he intends to marry.
David is approached by a small publisher and agrees to write a series of books called City of the Damned under the pseudonym Ignatius B. Samson (because the subject is very close to the work he did for the article), with a new book all months. This requires a strenuous writing schedule that translates to 6.66 pages of work every day to keep up with the schedule. David dismisses these efforts and considers them a “terrible penny” script, written quickly and intended for rapid consumption.
David decides to quit his job with City of the Damned, publish his serious novel, and marry Christina. Everything goes wrong quickly: her novel is a failure, she discovers that Christina is having an affair with Vidal, Vidal steals one of David’s novels and publishes it under her own name with some success, and her former editors demand it.
David finds a collection of letters and photographs in a locked room in the house, which he believes are the property of the former owner of the mansion. The letters and photos capture her imagination, hinting that something terrible and tragic happened in the house a long time ago.
Later, David is diagnosed with a brain tumor, which surprises him. He is approached by a mysterious man named Andreas Corelli, a lone and infamous French publisher. Corelli wants to hire David to write him a book, but not just any book, a book that inspires people to change the world.
David, frozen by his diagnosis, accepts, but there is another complication: The editor of The City of the Damned has him under an exclusive contract and cannot work for another editor. However, when its editors die in a mysterious fire, this complication is removed. Although David suspects the timing of the fire, he agrees to work on the book for Corelli. He often feels that he is not writing as much as acting as a conduit for some other force, and believes that the book might be able to bring about the apocalypse.
David discovers that his tumor has magically disappeared, leaving him fit and ready to work. He confronts Corelli, who informs him that he has been hired to write a book that will in fact be the basis of a new religion, but Corelli will not tell him what the purpose of this new religion might be.
David visits the Lost Books Cemetery and discovers a copy of Lux Aterna, a book of the dead written in verse. David discovers that the author of Lux Aterna is, in fact, the previous owner of his mansion, a man named Marlasca. He begins to investigate and discovers that Marlasca drowned in a puddle of water after being hired by Corelli to work on the same book. David visits a man named Salvador, who knew Marlasca and implied that Marlasca’s death could not be suicide. When Salvador learns that David is working on a book for Corelli, he becomes very interested.
David learns that Marlasca’s family fell apart after he took over Corelli’s writing job, and his son drowned. Shattered, Marlasca left his wife and learned from a witch that she could bring her son back if she could acquire another soul; Corelli promises him that he will bring his son back if he finishes the book. Marlasca frames his own suicide, and when Salvador starts investigating, he kills him and takes his identity: the man David spoke to was, in fact, Marlasca.
Marlasca frames David for murder, planning to sacrifice him since the soul needed to get her son back once she has completed the book as Corelli needed it. Marlasca plans to kill David and assume his identity, give the book to Corelli and get his son back. David refuses to finish the book, and Corelli punishes him by bringing Christina as a child, forcing him to raise her, fall in love with her again, and lose her over and over again. When world wars break out, David looks back and wonders if the incomplete book was the one that produced these disasters.
Genre: Mystery fiction
Mysterious fiction is a genre of fiction that generally involves a mysterious death or an unsolved crime. Often with a closed circle of suspects, each suspect is provided with a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity to commit the crime. The central character will often be a detective or person who assumes that role that eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction of the facts presented to the reader.
- David Martin: He agreed to read thanks to the bookseller Sempere, who introduced him to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Of humble origin, he goes from an apprentice from a journalist to a highly successful serial writer, but he has the feeling of losing control over his life.
- Andreas Corelli: Mysterious and sinister Parisian publisher who tempts David Martín to write a book “like it has never been written.”
- Pedro Vidal: Protector of David Martín, member of an illustrious family in the city. He longs to be a writer, but he knows he doesn’t have the talent of his protégé.
- Cristina Sagnier: David Martín is in love with Cristina, but she has grown up close to the Vidal family, to whom her father is indebted. Your relationship will be tortuous.
- Isabella: Very young and pizpireta assistant to David Martín, whom he adores and for whom he lets himself be advised.
While both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel Game are completely separate novels, they are subtly connected. Both novels are part of what Zafón says will eventually be a cycle of four freely connected story books with overlapping narratives and characters. Either one can be read alone, but reading both makes each one a deeper and richer experience.
The novel explores, subtly, long before we begin to realize that it’s doing it, what it means to sell the soul, the many ways we do it, what is gained and what is lost. Is it worth the profit? I’m not sure even the characters themselves can answer that.
The question lingers, haunting as the memory of a nightmare or a loving desire. One of the strengths of The Angel Game is that it asks questions and only hints at the answers, leaving the reader to interpret in a kind of narrative collaboration between the artist and the audience.