I really enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind, Ruiz Zafon's first novel published in the world of the Cemetery for the Forgotten Books and was really excited to be finally picking up The Angel's Game.
Set in the same universe, but during the 1920s in Barcelona, this novel follows the tale of David Martin who is orphaned when still young and who is embraced by an eccentric aristocrat Pedro Vidal, promptly falls in love with Cristina-Vidal's driver's daughter-and enabled to get a job as a writer for a newspaper. However, problems soon arise when Martin is sacked from his job on the paper, ultimately agreeing to a strange proposal from the mysterious publisher Corelli, which places his and the people he cares for, lives in danger.
Ruiz Zafon's writing remains brilliant, he establishes Barcelona as something of a character itself, and his atmospheric writing really builds the tension. Whilst the novel is something of a slow burn in the beginning, and like The Shadow of the Wind clearly referencing Great Expectations, even more obviously this time as that novel is one of the first that Martin reads, the mystery and darkness of the novel really sets in towards the end and it becomes truly gripping.
I'm going to admit to not being entirely enamoured with David Martin, who seemed a little too self-assured and full of bravado for his own good. However, this meant he did not just crumble immediately as danger arrived which did make him a good protagonist. Elsewhere, Corelli made a truly creepy presence which definitely chilled the novel and then Isabella, a young woman who becomes Martin's assistant for a period, was a true bit of light in the novel and I absolutely adored her. I'll admit to not being as in love with the Cristina, Martin's long-standing love interest, as she just seemed a little bland to me.
The Angel's Game stands a novel by itself, in my opinion, so reading The Shadow of the Wind first isn't really necessary. Indeed, my knowledge of how aspects of that novel played out did mean that I knew what was going to happen to a couple of characters, which made the reading experience even more sad than it already was! However, I am greatly looking forward to reading The Prisoner of Heaven as soon as possible-Ruiz Zafon certainly seems to be becoming a favourite author