Spotlight at B&N Review: The Angel’s Game

My thumbnail review of The Angel’s Game by Zafon is up at the B&N Review (lower left). To say I disagree with the NYT’s dissection of the book would be an understatement.

Ultimately, though, the appeal of The Angel’s Game lies in its careful portrait of Martin and its exploration of what it really means to love someone. Readers who appreciate books, romance, and intrigue will find this novel a subtle, unforgettable, and satisfying page-turner.


  1. says

    That NYT review left me wondering what the reviewer expected to read there, rather than wondering about the book itself. Then again, I’ve had almost 14 months to reflect on the story and I think for what Zafón wanted to accomplish, he did it quite well. Like your summation of the book’s character and strengths.

    By the way, what is the full first paragraph of the novel? I’m curious to know how close Graves’ translation was to my own.

  2. says

    It is a page turner, and an enjoyable one, if not quite as compelling as Shadow of the Wind.

    I didn’t really see that NYT review as a dissection, though. Full of backhanded compliments, sure, and obviously not written by someone in love with the book, but it seemed like it was pretty fairly descriptive of the kind of appeal the novel has for people other than Rafferty. Angel’s Game is really just a book-steeped potboiler, after all.

  3. says

    Since I’m sitting at work holding a copy of the book, the first graf:

    A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood, and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.

  4. says

    Thanks James. Interesting the choices that Graves and I made there with that first paragraph and how each of us emphasized different facets of the “sweet poison.” Hrmm…I’m tempted to re-read it again, since it’s been almost six months since my second reading of it. That’s the greatest compliment I can give a novel, I suppose…

  5. says

    Don’t get me wrong, Jeff, I think it’s quite good. Zafon plays with melodrama and the cliches of storytelling in a really interesting way. If you don’t go in for that sort of thing, though, you probably wouldn’t be inclined to look for subtleties on offer.

    Larry, it seems opportune to ask you to post your first paragraph now . . . .

  6. says

    I guess, even though I had just posted both versions over at my blog:

    A writer never forgets the first time that he accepts some money or praise in exchange for a story. He never forgets the first time that he feels the sweet venom of vanity in his blood, and he believes that if he manages that no one discovers his lack of talent the literary dream will be capable of placing a roof over his head, a hot plate for the end of the day and his deepest yearning: his name impressed on a miserable piece of paper which surely will survive longer than he. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is lost and his soul has a price.

    Subtle differences for the most part, no?

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says

    If you don’t go for that kind of thing, you probably shouldn’t review the book. I don’t really go for that kind of thing, but a superior example in any genre will always win me over.

  8. says

    Thanks, Jeff. When I read Graves’ translation (thanks again, James), I was struck by how she shifted the verb tenses forward into the future tense, as well as her curious use of “doomed” for “perdido” (which usually means “lost”). But the middle part of that passage, hers flows a bit better than mine, as I recall that being the part I struggled with the most.

  9. says

    I just read the NYT review before signing on to my computer, and I had the same reaction Jeff and Larry did — as if the NYT reviewer and I had had totally different expectations from this book. It’s as if the reviewer is dismissing the book with a, “It’s not on a par with any of the great classics that have survived through the ages.” No, this is no War and Peace, but I loved it, and it made me very happy to read it. I did almost nothing else for the time it took to get through it; legal work, book reviews, writing, everything took second place, because this book had me in its spell. What can possibly be wrong with that?