Carlos Ruiz Zafon achieved a broad international readership with The Shadow of the Wind, which was disappearing of the bookshelves in the UK a couple of years ago. His latest novel to appear in English translation is The Angel’s Game, a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind. It is similar in scope and ambition, telling the story of David Martin, the enigmatric novelist referred to in the earlier novel. It is a novel that owes not a little to Dickens, not least in terms of scale and breadth. David Martin’s story is also reminiscent of that of Pip in Great Expectations (a book that makes a significant and recurring appearance in the novel) and also David Copperfield.
However, this is also a book that not only draws on the traditions of nineteenth-century realiam, but also of twentieth century magical realism. It is a part detective story, part ghost story, part love story, part thriller, part literary novel, that is deeply rooted in the atmospheric landscape of pre-Civil War Barcelona in the early decades of the twentieth century, and Zafon is especially effective at painting that evocative landscape. But it is also a story that embraces the fantastic and the supernatural. As with The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game is a big novel that I found both gripping and moving. This is strong storytelling that draws the reader in and holds them.