Author Carlos Ruiz Zafon is clearly a lover of literature and books. He exhibited this in his previous novel, The Shadow of the Wind, and returns to similar themes with The Angel's Game, a Kafkaesque puzzle of a novel that has an author and book lover as its central character.
Pulp fiction writer David Martin has long struggled to make it as a professional author in Barcelona and has achieved moderate levels of success writing for local publications and having a few of his books actually sell. When David moves into an abandoned old building he has always admired, strange things start to happen to him. Most particularly, he begins to receive notes from an unknown publisher seeking to present him with an opportunity to work for him. The stranger, going by the name Andreas Corelli, finds David at his most vulnerable and tasks him with writing a unique work that will ‘create a new religion.’ The clever reader will see right through this Faustian bargain and recognize that David Martin may have just sold his soul to the devil.
Taking place early in the 1900s, The Angel's Game includes several literary allusions and a book store as important elements of the tale. There are many references to Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, an author whom Ruiz Zafon names as being a personal favorite of his. The story takes a more fantastical turn when David is shown what lies beyond his favorite local bookstore by its owner, Sempre, who takes him into a hidden passageway that leads to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Here lie the thousands of novels that have faded into obscurity due to not being read and all but forgotten by legions of readers. In this mystical place, David Martin will find the ammunition to defeat the mysterious Andreas Corelli.
David and his apprentice, Isabella, begin to find hidden secrets in his own apartment. They uncover the fact that another writer lived there years earlier and was alleged to have killed his lover and then taken his own life. Even more alarmingly, the prior tenant may have also been working on a similar ‘religious’ work for Andreas Corelli, and this work may have driven him to his own demise. Could David be heading down the same path - and are those around him in peril as a result of his work? David and Isabella play investigator, seeking out the people involved in the mystery surrounding the death of the writer who shared the same living space. In the process, they raise suspicion about their own involvement in these affairs when some of the people David question turn up dead.
The Angel's Game is a literary delight to be relished by anyone who loves reading and respects literary history. At one point in the novel, David recalls that “…the old bookseller had always told me that books have a soul, the soul of the person who wrote them and of those who read them and dream about them.” The Angel's Game has a soul of its own and will linger in the readers’ imagination long after the tale is finished.