Fourteen-year-old Isabel is a pampered young lady of the Spanish gentry in the late 1400s in Inquisition Spain. Raised as a devote Catholic, she has no clue about her family’s dangerous secret.
But as she comes of age, she begins to question some of her parent’s odd habits, such as never serving pork, even though it’s far cheaper than mutton; or bathing before sundown every Friday.
When she is betrothed to a cruel, distasteful man her own age, instead of the promised man of her own choosing, she questions her parents motives even closer. When she accidentally overhears the servants talking, her quick mind begins to piece together the pieces of the puzzle. She confronts her parents who finally reveal the truth. Outwardly, they practice Catholicism, but they really hold to their forebears’ religion – Judaism. Isabel is warned to not reveal this knowledge to a soul because it could mean their lives.
Isabel is unable to keep this dark secret to herself and confides in a newfound friend, the silversmith’s son. The story that unfolds after this confession is one of danger and intrigue. Her life no longer the safe and secure one she believed it to be, Isabel questions everything she has ever known.
I was excited to receive this galley for review since my ancestors come from the very city where the story takes place. My great of greats grandparents might have found themselves in the very same dire situation.
The historical nature of this book is well done. Because of the age group of the readership, I do question some of the more graphic depictions of inhumanity by the Inquisition to the people caught in its vice-like grip. I found some of the scenes to be quite upsetting and scary. Parents of younger pre-teen and early teen readers might want to review the book before giving it to their children as the more sensitive reader may become distressed by such portions.
Outside of the intensity of the imagery, I found the book very engaging, and couldn’t put it down. I do feel as if the character development was lacking and wished there was a deeper understanding of the motivations behind Isabel, her parents and the secondary characters’ actions. At a little over 200 pages, the book is a fast read. Recommended for braver young teens.
Note: I received an ARC of this book for review from NetGalley.