Carlos Ruiz Zafón's followup to the much-acclaimed The Shadows of the Wind is The Angel's Game, out this month in English from Doubleday. Since I was disappointed with the former (mainly because of the ending) I picked this one up with relatively low expectations. I think that mindset improved the experience for me - I enjoyed this one for the most part, although once again the ending seemed both rushed and contrived.
This book occurs before the events in Shadows, although the setting and some of the characters are similar. David Martín, a struggling writer, enters into what seems to be some sort of unwitting Faustian bargain with a mysterious publisher, who charges him with creating a new religion. David soon discovers he's not the first to attempt this assignment, but once he learns what happened to his predecessor, the bloom rapidly falls off the rose.
I loved the first half or two-thirds of the book. David's early career, his triumphs and failures, and his tempestuous acquaintance with a very funny young assistant, Isabella, make for delightful reading. His dealings with Sempere & Sons booksellers, and his visit to the Cemetery of Forbidden Books (perhaps Zafón's best creation, although I wish he would lavish a bit more attention on it) are well written and captivating. The main plot seems fascinating. But as the story draws on, Zafón's tangled web begins to unravel. The ultimate resolution left me wanting something different.
Worth reading for its humor and its creepiness, and for its occasional lavish paean to the book. The design is lovely (the cover image alone is enough to make a bibliophile drool), which certainly helps. Maybe you'll even like the ending. I wish I had.