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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Angel's Game

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | links | about the author

To purchase The Angel's Game

Title: The Angel's Game
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 544 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Angel's Game - US
El Juego del Ángel - US
The Angel's Game - UK
The Angel's Game - Canada
The Angel's Game - India
Le jeu de l'ange - France
Das Spiel des Engels - Deutschland
Il gioco dell'angelo - Italia
  • Spanish title: El Juego del Ángel
  • Translated by Lucia Graves

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Haven't received a copy yet

Chances that we will review it:


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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 29/6/2009 Zoë Slutzky
FASz . 9/11/2008 Tilman Spreckelsen
The Guardian . 13/6/2009 Giles Tremlett
The Independent . Boyd Tonkin
The LA Times . 29/6/2009 Nick Owchar
NZZ . 11/11/2008 Markus Jakob
The NY Times Book Rev. . 28/6/2009 Terrence Rafferty
The Observer . 28/6/2009 Stephanie Merritt
The Spectator . 10/6/2009 Honor Clerk
Sunday Times . 24/3/2009 Hugo Barnacle
The Telegraph C- 7/6/2009 Mark Sanderson
The Telegraph . 9/6/2009 Lionel Shriver
The Times . 23/5/2009 Margaret Reynolds
TLS . 1/8/2008 Nick Caistor
TLS D 29/5/2009 Roly Allen
USA Today A+ 15/6/2009 Carol Memmott
The Washington Post . 23/6/2009 Louis Bayard
Die Zeit . 12/2/2009 Kristina Maidt-Zinke

  Review Consensus:

  Over the top, but most are more or less won over by it

  From the Reviews:
  • "At times the candlelight and creaking hinges come on too strong, and as the novel nears its end, it spirals into Grand Guignol. But its faith in the power of fiction is endearing, and addictive." - Zoë Slutzky, Financial Times

  • "Eigenartig nur, wie wenig einem dieses Massensterben nahegeht. Eine Erklärung dafür ist, dass dieses Buch sehr viel mehr aus der Architektur Barcelonas heraus lebt als aus seinen Figuren -- das Interesse des Autors gilt den schäbigen Absteigen, den Jugendstilvillen oder den düsteren Parks, die er intensiv und äußerst lebendig schildert, während ihm die Menschen gern zu Pappkameraden verkümmern. Aber auch dies ist eher Programm als Unvermögen, denn das Referenzsystem, das Zafón zugrunde legt, ist die populäre Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts, genauer: der Zeitungsfortsetzungsroman mit seinen Stereotypen und dem genretypischen Spannungsbogen bis zum Cliffhanger am Ende der jeweiligen Lieferung" - Tilman Spreckelsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

  • "He takes us into sinful corners, indulging fantasies that are erotic, magical or violent. In the end Zafón is the tempter. Many will fall for his vigorous and exhaustingly relentless story-telling." - Giles Tremlett, The Guardian

  • "Beyond plentiful shocks and thrills, Zafón niftily treads the fine line between a story of paranormal events and one of psychological delusion." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "He offers not only plenty of plot intricacies and mystery but also a lyrical, melancholic style of writing (.....) The Angel’s Game is a strange creature, a literary centaur in which a meditation on the craft of writing is combined with a thriller about David Martín, a master of pulp and Grand Guignol." - Nick Owchar, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Nun ist Das Spiel des Engels gewiss kein grosses Sprachkunstwerk. Sein Urheber selbst zöge vielleicht die Bezeichnung Machwerk vor: Trivial, weder Floskeln noch abgedroschene Bilder scheuend, wäre es ohne seinen skeptischen Grundton bloss eine Schwarte, an der man desto schwerer würgte, je höher sie strebt. Zafó;n jedoch bewahrt in den Serpentinen seiner Plots stets Bodenhaftung, und seine Dialoge -- die auch die Handlung am wirksamsten vorantreiben -- sind zuweilen von fast Chandlerscher Abgefeimtheit." - Markus Jakob, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "(H)e spins a fantastically elaborate plot from a slender, whimsical idea. Here it’s the notion that a writer might, on a bad day, succumb to a sense of futility about the value of his calling, might begin to believe that the act of telling a story isn’t just vain, but positively diabolical. (...) He’s essentially a voluptuary whose temperament runs to big emotions and the purplish prose that heightens them. (The superb translation, by Lucia Graves, captures the strangely serene excessiveness of his style.) Ruiz Zafón toys with ambiguity without, it seems, really believing in it." - Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Books about books and writers are always in danger of spiralling into self-reference, and The Angel's Game is somewhat uneven, the first half dense with exposition before the action catches up in the second. Yet Zafón's fascination with the nature of faith and storytelling, though it may slow the narrative, can't help but engage anyone who believes that life can be shaped by books." - Stephanie Merritt, The Observer

  • "But if Zafón nods at the most celebrated gothic elements in mainstream English literature, this dark tale of the supernatural is more in line with Mrs Radcliffe, Monk Lewis and Bram Stoker. (...) This is all rattling good gothic fun, but there is a danger that this novel takes itself too seriously. (...) A good read, but it is the world of Hammer and Dan Brown and not that of Dickens, Charlotte Bronte or Oscar Wilde that Zafón inhabits." - Honor Clerk, The Spectator

  • "Although the plot retains its overall shape, such as it is, the amount of picaresque incident and Grand Guignol lead to something of a pile-up. Characters are thrown in and killed off at a great rate. Rather as in Hindu mythology, anything can happen, so nothing is surprising." - Hugo Barnacle, Sunday Times

  • "The Angel’s Game also promises to be a global bestseller. However, why this should be so is the biggest mystery of all in a book bulging with gothic secrets and lies. (...) The Cemetery of Forgotten Books -- 'a colossal labyrinth of bridges, passages and shelves’ -- is a wonderful creation, and there are many thrilling set pieces (usually involving horrid deaths), but the novel fails to cohere into a satisfying whole. (...) The disappointing result is just a bloated beach-read about hassles in Spain." - Mark Sanderson, The Telegraph

  • "While much of this novel is highly enjoyable, at some latter point the tongue withdraws from the cheek. In wrapping up a host of absurd sub-plots, somewhere in there the writer loses his sense of humour. When the book ceases to be self-conscious about its own manipulations, it stops being fun. This won’t bother some readers; some will happily dive into the mysticism up to the neck. But others will miss the drollery and sophistication with which the novel began, and for these readers Zafón’s straight resolution will disappoint." - Lionel Shriver, The Telegraph

  • "The Angel's Game is a book about books. (...) If you know your 19th-century melodrama there are pleasures in this novel, but readers with other penchants will be taken, too. There are Dan Brown puzzles and Mean Street realisms, there are quirky contemplative philosophies and -- best of all -- intriguing aphorisms" - Margaret Reynolds, The Times

  • "It is easy to list the book's shortcomings: Martin is shown as staggering from one outlandish event to the next; the descriptions of Barcelona are cliched and repetitive; the minor characters fail to come alive; and any book which relies on Lucifer to pull the plot strings requires too much suspension of disbelief. But Zafon is expert at introducing twists to his story; his dialogue sparkles; and he knows how to string together emotional and narrative incident." - Nick Caistor, Times Literary Supplement

  • "(W)hen the light is finally allowed to break through, its revelation lacks horror and catharsis. (...) Zafón's novel makes much of the fetish of the mansucript, the library and the bookshop -- the trappings of literature -- and the pains behind a book's writing. It is less concerned with the challenges of being human, or with the possibilities literature holds." - Roly Allen, Times Literary Supplement

  • "The Angel's Game, a prequel of sorts, is as much a literary marvel as its predecessor. (...) Zafon hits the reset button on what it means to be a great writer. His visionary storytelling prowess is a genre unto itself." - Carol Memmott, USA Today

  • "Caveat lector: If you believe the only proper place for pulp is in your orange juice, then, for pity's sake, steer clear of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. In his much-loved The Shadow of the Wind and in this new offering, no trope of popular fiction is off limits, and nothing succeeds like excess. (...) It's safe to say The Angel's Game won't be forgotten anytime soon, if only because it offers such a glut of reading pleasure. Only a churl -- that is, a reviewer -- would ask himself: At what point does excess become excessive?" - Louis Bayard, The Washington Post

  • "Die uralte Geschichte vom Teufelspakt -- sie lässt sich immer wieder neu erzählen. Für Carlos Ruiz Zafón beinhaltet sie die Lizenz zu ungelösten Rätseln und haarsträubenden Ungereimtheiten, die Teil seines fiktionalen Konzepts sind. Am Ende steht die Möglichkeit im Raum, der ganze Kolportage-Zauber sei nichts als eine Kopfgeburt des schreibenden Protagonisten gewesen. Hier wird nicht nur die Anziehungskraft, sondern auch die Gefährlichkeit der Literatur mit allem Pathos beschworen, um ihre Bedeutung zu steigern und ihre Wirkungsmacht zu glorifizieren." - Kristina Maidt-Zinke, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The Angel's Game: Reviews: Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Other books by Carlos Ruiz Zafón under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Spanish literature under review

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón was born in 1964 and died in 2020.

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© 2009-2021 the complete review

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