Most of what I have to say about this book can be summed up in two words: utterly fantastic! I had been a bit worried that this book would suffer in comparison to The Shadow of the Wind, which is one of my all-time favorite books, but I was genuinely surprised to find that I liked this one even more. The writing in this book was extremely precise and smooth, and rather than it feeling like a linear set of events separated into sections, it felt more like the type of story a storyteller would tell: a whole and well-polished narrative, like something that could be finished in one sitting.
Zafón also is a master of ambiance and atmosphere, and his talent in this book was no different than in Shadow. The city of Barcelona that he portrays was almost a character in itself, dark, foreboding and completely three-dimensional. The backdrop set an aura of delicious suspense and it was the perfect setting for this Gothic and cryptic tale. There was no abruptness in the story, nothing faltering or out of place; instead everything was created with perfect symmetry and gravity. In fact the whole book moved like well-oiled machinery, and that was one of the elements that made it so easy to lose track of everything else but the story that I was reading.
The dialogue was very natural and most of the character exchanges were witty and barbed, which lent a touch of humor to what would have otherwise been a very morose story. The banter between David and his assistant was particularly amusing, and in general, the ease in which the characters conversed was a high point in the book. Couched into the narrative, there was a good deal of exposition regarding human nature, theology, and philosophy, but Zafón had a knack of not reverting into a preachiness or sanctimony that would have spoiled Daniel's revelations. At times though, his examination and estimation of spirituality and theology seemed to be rather cynical, but it tended to land more into the region of philosophy rather than verge into the areas of morality.
There was a time in the story that I felt as though I may be dealing with an unreliable narrator, but further reading lead me to discover that Zafón had another, more exciting ace up his sleeve, and just when I thought I had this story all pieced together, I realized that that I was completely wrong. I suppose that there is more than one way to digest the conclusion of this story, and I think that because Zafón gives the reader a choice in this matter, it makes this story all the more distinguished. This book had all the qualities that make it unforgettable: narrative force and drive, mystery, and elements of dramatic horror that were masterfully depicted. Above all though, the thing I enjoyed most was that this was a book about books and how they shape, change and enrich your life and the lives of others. This work showed an increased maturity and darkness in the author, and was much more measured and introspective than his debut novel. I have to say that taken together, the two books are an extremely promising piece of the four book endeavor the author has planned.
This is the kind of book that I want to enthusiastically push on every reader I know. It was a stunning reading experience, the kind I am searching for in every book that I open, but rarely find. Haunting, tense and thrilling, The Angel's Game is a modern masterpiece that I give the heartiest of recommendations. A simply fabulous read.