I read THE ANGEL'S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafon because my brother Tod gave it such a glowing review. And, at first, it seemed like the book more than deserved the praise.
The book starts out brilliantly, rich in a character, humor, and a powerful sense of place. I was utterly captivated. I couldn't wait to keep reading. I felt I was reading a truly great book, one I was certain would become a beloved favorite of mine.
I was so in love, that I was willing to overlook a nagging flaw — in a story where language and the craft of writing mean so much, where the writer himself aims a spotlight on authorial laziness ("Don Basilo […] subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency"), I was astonished by the repeated reliance on cliche phrase like these:
"In this neck of the woods, one doesn't have to run very fast."
"The editorial board had opted to take the bull by the horns…"
"technically, it was my father who paid, but don't look a gift horse in the mouth"
"my father came back and found me alive and kicking…"
It was especially bewildering since the author is capable of amazing, vivid, and fresh prose. How could he possibly let a cliche like "he let the cat out of the bag" get past the rough draft?
Since the book is a translation, I will give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume it's the translator's fault and not his (one need only look at The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for an example of that).
But the cliches would be a minor annoyance if the rest of the book matched the brilliance of the first half. Unfortunately, the book quickly devolves into relentlessly dull exposition, delivered by one-note characters with absolutely no motivation or reason to deliver the speeches to our hero besides the author's need to relay the information.
Worse, the plot totally collapses into an unintelligble, incoherent mess that isn't satisfying or entertaining. Nothing that was "planted" in the first half pays off in the second. For me, the book was a crushing disappointment.