Not strictly a prequel to the “Shadow…”, this is the story of a young orphan named David Martín. Helped by his rich mentor, Martín has tasted success at a very young age: he has a contract to publish his mystery/horror books and he is living in the mansion he always wanted.
But his success turns sour quickly, when his publishers kill his latest book, a labour of love for Martín, so that he can turn back to his successful crop of monthly penny dreadful. He has lost his love in what he thinks as a act of betrayal by his closest friend. And to top it all, he is dying.
This is when a mysterious Parisian publisher comes knocking. He wants Martin to write a book for ages, a book which will create a religion. But when the despondent Martin accepts the commission, he finds his surroundings hold a dangerous connection to the book he is writing, and it may cost him a lot more than what he is gaining.
As I said, this is not an exact prequel to “The Shadow…”, but there are many things common between the two. The story is again set in Barcelona, and people and places we have seen earlier, like Sampere and son (previous generation), their book shop, and even one of my favourite literary constructs, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
Even the themes are familiar, and not just because of the gothic tones. There are the ghosts of a violent past coming to haunt the protagonist. There’s a mansion holding memories, influencing the people around it. There are some strong friendships which withstand any horror. While The Shadow has a supernatural element, it is much more pronounced in Angel’s Game.
And there are some differences, mainly in the characters. Perhaps because I was comparing, Martin comes out much more self-centred and morbid (and sometimes arrogant) than Daniel Sampere. He has some good friends, who help him out to the end, but he is a lonely soul. He doesn’t make it easy for people to come close to him, and there are very few people whom he treats with respect till the end.
I wouldn’t say that if you have read his earlier book, you will know everything about The Angel’s Game. It is still a compelling gothic story, and you should definitely check it out.
But remember if you haven’t read any Spanish authors lately, they specialize in tragic stories which need some time to recover from. Also, don’t forget to read David Martin’s cynical observations about writing and the publishing business, if you can survive the first disillusionment his suggestions bring on.
Quote of The Day:
A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. […] A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.
– David Martin, The Angel’s Game