Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (audio)

I don't think anyone would argue that "The Shadow of the Wind" is one of the good ones. There's a whole lotta love going around for this book, and I contributed a little bit of my heart to the mix. The story was mysterious, romantic, atmospheric and beautiful. Listening to the audio was a seduction. After finishing, the obvious thing to do was move on to The Angel's Game, which I understood to be a sort of prequel to SOTW.

I was hesitant. Some loved the book, some didn't. Some couldn't even finish it. Some recommended not to read the two books close together. Most said it did not match up to Shadow of the Wind. Yet I plunged ahead.

Enter David Martin, a young talented writer who has a deep passion for literature, but spends his days in a crumbling, moldy tower, pounding out trashy crime novels. Parentless, he is mentored by a wealthy playboy who eventually claims Martin's true love, Christina, for his own. He is a work-a-holic, his greedy publishers are sucking him dry, his only friend is a bull-headed 17-year-old female assistant, and soon discovers he has terminal brain cancer.

The dark, mysterious Andreas Corelli, a Parisian publisher, approaches Martin, offering a solution to all his problems. For a huge sum of money, Martin will write a novel that will be his magnum opus - he will create a "new religion". Martin's brain cancer, his previous contract with the blood-sucking publishers, and any distractions will be "handled" by Corelli. Never mind that Corelli reeks of evil, and that we, the readers, suspect this is the old "selling your soul to the devil" kinda thing. (It is what is oft referred to in the Nawrot house as a "sh*t-filled Twinkie".) Martin, a desperate man however, takes the deal happily. He soon begins to suspect, to his horror, that it appears others have taken the same deal before him, and have not fared well. After a little cloak and dagger investigating, Martin becomes increasingly disenchanted with Senor Corelli. He wonders if there is any way to extricate himself from Corelli, without sacrificing his life.

There are many things about this story that have a similar feel to "Shadow of the Wind". The Cemetery of Forgotten Books makes its appearance, as well as the previous generation the Sempere and Sons bookstore (for most of the book I thought it was the same father and son as Shadow of the Wind...I'm a little dense sometimes). It was heart-warming to see my old friends appear in this tale. We also have a little unrequited love, secrets revealed and a crumbling, spooky old house. This is where the similarities end, however.

This book is a much darker, sinister and violent book. The body count is significant...people drop like flies right and left. The book is also filled with confusing twists and turns that will give your mind a good screwing. (Have you ever seen the movie The Game with Michael Douglas? If you have, this book is in the same category...). I had to pay attention, and still I found myself saying "Wha???" every disc or two. I didn't find our main man and main gal (Martin and Christina) to be likable. Martin was cold, detached and depressed, and Christina seemed whiny. The only character I really liked was Martin's plucky assistant, Isabella.

Even after rattling off all of those negatives, however, this is not a book I will soon forget. It took me a couple of days just to verbalize my thoughts. It is an over-the-top, gluttonous feast of mind candy. It was enough of a sugar-high to leave your head spinning in the end, weak in the knees. I immediately started listening to a feel-good audio after I finished this one, and had to shut it down after about fifteen minutes. My mind was too shell-shocked for feel-good. I cranked up a murder mystery...that was better.

I raved about the narrator in the Shadow of the Wind. He was so smooth and so sultry, I was putty in his hands. As a result, I was so very disappointed to hear a different narrator, Dan Stevens, at the helm. He is an accomplished narrator, though, and I will admit he performed excellently. But because he is a British actor, most of his voices had British accents, even though they were Spanish characters. Small quibble.

4 out of 5 stars


Melody said...

Great review, Sandy!
I've yet to pick up any of the books. I've also heard some mixed reviews about this one, and maybe that's why I'm hesitant to pick them up in the first place. ;)

JoAnn said...

Another great review, Sandy! I'll be reading (or maybe listening to) Shadow of the Wind first.

Unknown said...

I'm afraid I have to disagree with your first sentence (sorry our book tastes don't seem to be matching in the past few days - I hope they meet up again soon!) It has been a long time since I read Shadow of the Wind, but I couldn't finish it - I got bored.

I'm sorry to hear that the narrator wasn't as good, but pleased that you enjoyed it anyway.

DesLily said...

I've read both books and loved shadow of the wind and found Angels Game to be a mystery of a different sort all together.. I did like both books in the end though

Beth F said...

I basically skipped your review (fear of spoilers) but I did catch that there is a different narrator (boo, hiss). I will be listening soon I hope. Shadow of the Wind was fabulous.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - yeah, I heard the mixed reviews as well. Frances even had to reshelve it! It had slower moments, but I'm glad I persevered!

JoAnn - You wouldn't have to read SOFW first, but it helps just a bit. I hope you like it!

Jackie - you might try the audio, it is fabulous. Atmosphere out the wazoo. I've been following you for nearly a year, and I still don't think I could pick a book I would know for sure you would like! You are an enigma!

DesLily - it WAS a totally different books, with really the only thing in common is the cross-over characters and the location. Still loved it though!

Beth - I know, I so loved that first narrator. Still, this guy is good - he can hold his own. My only advice is to push through a couple of slow parts in the beginning (it is pretty easy to do with audio) because the payoff is big.

bermudaonion said...

With all of the twists and turns, I think I'll be better off reading the print version of this one. Great review.

S. Krishna said...

Great, great review. I feel like you put into words what I couldn't about this book!

Alyce said...

I will have to give this one a try. I hadn't decided whether or not to read it, because I wasn't sure if it would live up to Shadow of the Wind. (I actually checked The Angel's Game out from the library and then turned it back in - just couldn't make up my mind.)

Maybe after the new year sometime I will read this book. I like books that have those kinds of elements like The Game (although usually I don't gravitate towards the violent aspect of it - I love the twists and turns).

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't think I could do the dark, sinister and violent, and twists and turns. I picked this up a couple of times, but ended up giving it away.

Book Bird Dog said...

I loved reading the Shadow of the Wind and am curious about the high body count in The Angel's Game.
sounds very intense.

Ti said...

I agree with most everything you said..it was a good mind screw. I can't imagine listening to it on disc though. It would be hard for my brain to follow.

Oh! You reminded me how wonderful that Michael Douglas movie was. The Game was awesome. Good comparison.

Carrie K. said...

I've been on the fence about this one - and I'm still on the fence! Guess I'll listen to Shadow of the Wind and then decide. :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Kathy - I will admit, I was spinning in circles. I've gotten pretty good at catching on quickly with an audio, but the hard read would definitely allow look-backs!

S. Krishna - It isn't an easy one to describe. It took me awhile to attempt the review. I bet yours was wonderful however. In fact, I'm going to go find it!

Alyce - this was my fear as well. I knew SOTW would be hard to beat. But I think this book is different enough that it shouldn't be a problem!

Jill - if dark and violent is not your thing, then yes, it might be best to walk away. I was walking through the last part of the book, and my freaking legs were shaking.

Book Bird Dog - yeah, dead bodies everywhere. Quite a difference from SOTW!

Ti - that was the first thing I thought of in the middle of the screwing...The Game. Like "what just happened???" or "Where am I?".

Carrie - I hope you decide to give it a try!

Kathleen said...

I loved The Game with Michael Douglas so if this is anything like that movie, I know I would love it. Great review...the kind that makes me want to add it to the TBR pile which is now many piles!

Anna said...

I'm a sucker for a British accent, so I'd probably enjoy it. ;)

I'm still on the fence when it comes to this author.

Diary of an Eccentric

Heidenkind said...

Hm, sounds very atmospheric and interesting. I'm not sure I would be able to handle it audio form; I have trouble paying attention to voices. ;P

Unknown said...

Fantastic review Sandy! I wondered about this book because I have seen many reviews that were not favorable.
This sounds like a book worth reading whether one ends up liking it or not. It's quite a story!

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Like you, I loved Shadow of the Wind. There was just something magical about it. However, although mine wasn't on audio, I didn't think much of this book at all.

The ending was loose-ended and disjointed, the plot suddenly fell through, and I was just left with an unsatisfied feeling.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Kathleen - It is like The Game in that it messes with your mind. It makes you ask what is real, and what is an illusion!

Anna - if you are on the fence, try Shadow of the Wind first. That will hook you!

Tasha - it definitely is an acquired skill. But at this point, I almost prefer audios to the real thing, for several reasons. First I can multi-task with them, and second, I am much less intimidated by a big thick book when it is in the form of discs!

Amy - I know, the reviews were all over the place. And I was a little hesitant to start it, but kinda got on a roll after SOTW. I couldn't resist.

Cookie - your take on the ending was interesting. See, the ending blew me away. It wasn't completely tied up, but I was moved multiple times. You definitely weren't the only one that struggled with it though, based on some of the reviews.

Unknown said...

I think that you might be right - I'll try the audio book and see if it has a better atmosphere.

I'm sorry that you don't understand my taste in books - I didn't think I was that complicated!

Matt said...

Excellent and thorough review! I had such great anticipation of the book before it was released but I put it aside after I have received the shipment. I found my desire to read this eclipsed by the cravings of other book. It's on the read-your-own-pile list and I'll see if I can get around it before the end of the year! :)

Iliana said...

wonderful review, Sandy! I loved Shadow of the Wind and was really looking forward to this book until I found out it was a sequel. As much as I love series books, I prefer those for just my mystery books.

Anyway, I do want to read this one though. I have heard a lot of mixed reviews but I think he is a good writer and who doesn't love a good atmospheric novel!

Melissa said...

I loved The Game and will have to give this one a try after I finally get around the reading The Shadow of the Wind.

Alice said...

Great review, Sandy! I haven't both the books but hope to catch up one of these days. :D

Ana S. said...

Sigh, and I still haven't read either. I meant to for RIP, but you know how it goes... Someday!

Serena said...

I love British accents too. Another reason for me to get this audio!