This is how the publishing industry is supposed to work: A writer of great talent releases a book and his fans, who are eagerly awaiting, snatch it up in hardcover despite themselves.
Hardcovers are expensive, but damn if The Angel’s Game isn’t beautiful. The book jacket that is too small, revealing the rows of books that make up the hard binding beneath. The whole design is brilliant. It would nearly have been enough to buy the book for the art, but since it’s by Zafon, author of mi favorito, The Shadow of the Wind, it was a done deal. I saw the book and my wallet came out on its own.
But is it as good? (Don’t worry, no plot spoiling ahead) Well I really have no idea, since I’m only a third of the way in. It’s got a lot of the same great qualities as Shadow. In fact, the only fault I currently find is the strangely bulky language at times. Witness:
“It was a slender, angular three story structure, shaped like a tower, its roof crowned with sharp gables, that looked down, like a sentinel, on the city with the ghostly park at its feet”
You see what I’m saying? Misplaced modifiers! Does “with the ghostly park at its feet” modify “city” or the building which is the subject of the sentence? Does “that looked down” modify the gables, or the building itself? That is a bad sentence.
I don’t remember anything of this sort from Shadow, so I’m trying to figure out what went wrong. Option one is that Zafon screwed up more often this time around. (Well, no, option one should be that I missed the same kind of mistakes in Shadow. Whatever.) Option two is that this is translational. However, my rapidly evaporating Spanish still seems to indicate that this would be a bulky sentence even en espanol. Plus, Lucia Graves did both translations, if I recall correctly, and she’s pretty spot on with her work as far as I know.
(I do not have a copy of Shadow, so I can’t do the close comparison I wish I could)
Option three is that this is intentional. Sacrilege! But, there’s some evidence to support this theory. Angel’s Game, despite a very similar setting and atmosphere, feels like a very different book, and a very different voice, than Shadow. The language throughout is less modern, which is fitting since it takes place in a slightly older Barcelona. The sentences (both grammatically correct and annoyingly not so, like the one above) are generally longer and more complex. The narrator of Shadow started as a boy, and a simplicity inhered to the style even as he grew up. The narrator of Angel’s Game is a writer of barroque thrillers, and his voice is suitably more florid, complex, and melodramatic.
So that’s a point in Zafon’s favor, that the voices match their narrators. I just wish that didn’t result in such ugly sentences. One of the halmarks of the writers of the past was that, elaborate and complex as their sentences got, they were almost always grammatically precise.
So there you go. A picky problem with a book that otherwise is turning out as good as its cover.