The Last Song

by Eva Wiseman

Book, 2012



Call number

J 760 WIS



Plattsburgh, NY : Tundra Books of Northern New York, 2012.


When the tolerant culture of Spain is shattered by the Inquisition, Isabel feels safe because of her Catholic upbringing and father's position as a respected doctor, until he is arrested for the family's secret Jewish heritage.

User reviews

LibraryThing member JanaRose1
This book takes place in Spain during the Inquisition. While Isabel's father is the personal physician to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, their family is not safe from the inquisition. Although Isabel was raised Catholic, they are "new Christians" and her parents secretly practice the Jewish
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faith. In order to protect their family, her father betroths her to an unpleasant and harsh boy. After learning about her heritage, Isabel desires to learn more and befriends a Jewish teenager.

I had trouble putting this book down. The characters were interesting and engaging. The plot was swift and fast moving. It was very well written and a pleasure to read. I believe any young adult would enjoy the book and would learn something about Spanish history and the Inquisition. Overall, I highly recommend.
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LibraryThing member goorgoahead
See the full review on Short & Sweet Reviews.

Much of the book seemed flat to me. While the narration was often vivid and did well at setting the scene, the dialogue frequently felt stilted and unbelievable, even taking into account the fact that the story takes place hundreds of years in the past.
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Many of the characters are very one-note and can be summed up very simply and see little development throughout the story. They never really rise up to be more complex or have less of a caricature sort of portrayal. Isabel is the daughter of a privileged family, Yonah is a charming boy who changes Isabel's mind about Jewish people, and so on. Except for a few moments, the characters show little depth. Characters have changes of heart about very important topics almost at the drop of a hat. Isabel grew up believing that Jewish people were to be despised, but within days of learning that her family has Jewish roots, is breaking all sorts of rules to learn more about her newly adopted faith. There are very few moments examining Isabel's inner conflict over the secrets she learned about her family. I found many of Isabel's actions to be highly unbelievable -- even though she's a teenager and therefore probably prone to being more impulsive, she makes decisions that could be life-or-death for her family, with very little thought to the consequences.
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LibraryThing member livebug
Isabel is a wealthy, privileged young woman living in Toledo, Spain in 1491. Though the Inquisition is raging around her, she is a devout Catholic, with connections in the royal court, and it leaves her untouched. Until (of course, there's always an "until!") she learns that her parents are
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secretly practicing Jews, putting her whole life in jeopardy. Her parents try to protect her by arranging her betrothal to a cruel young man with impeccable background, but Isabel begins a different kind of connection with a Jewish apprentice ...

This rather slight novel left me wanting more. While it's not impossible to believe that a devout Catholic would be attracted to learning about her newly-discovered Jewish roots, I do think it's a bit much to imagine that she'd chuck up her faith so readily ... there's a lot of theology to be abjured there, especially with Torquemada breathing down your neck like that. Character quibbles aside, the history is also slight -- I wanted to know more about the Inquisition and the Jews before and much, much more background and atmosphere.

The story kept me turning pages. I wish each page contained more. Recommended with reservations.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
It is so wonderful to know that there are still authors out there writing historical fiction for young adults. This takes place in Toledo Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, under Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Isabelle's father is the royal physician and has always promised her that when she
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was fifteen she could choose her own husband. That changes when he betroths her to a cruel young man who is known as coming from a staunch Catholic family. What follows are family secrets and a young love with another young man. Such great history, told in a very readable and interesting manner as well as romance and the theme of religious persecution. All in all a very good read. ARC from NetGalley.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
Young Isabella leads a comfortable and sheltered life in 15th century Toledo, Spain. Her father is one King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's favourite physicians, and as such benefits from riches and luxury, and though Isabella knows Jews are being persecuted by the inquisition let by Cardinal
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Torquemada, she feels her family’s Christian faith shields them from danger. Life starts taking an unpleasant turn for her when her father arranges her betrothal to the son of a prominent family. The young man is cruel and mean to her, but her father insists marrying into his devout Catholic family will shield Isabella from any risk, an explanation which Isabella is far from understanding until Torquemada's men come knocking at their door to take Isabella's father one day. Unbeknownst to Isabella, her family are recent converts and her parents have been practicing their Jewish customs in secret, which is exactly the sort of behaviour the Inquisition sets out to uncover and punish. But the family are in possession of a document which could prove embarrassing to Torquemada. If Isabella can play her cards right, she might manage to free her father, unless she ends up being locked up and tortured right along with him.

This short novel, combining adventure and romance against a backdrop of persecution and violence and based on historical facts, turned out to be a real page turner. Recommended for readers young and old.
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LibraryThing member SusieBookworm
This is another historical read that picks up readers and lands them smack-dab in the era. Wiseman certainly makes real to her readers the fears and trials experienced by the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. Isabel has a fast track from her sheltered, innocent childhood and adolescence to the
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real world of emerging adulthood in a time turbulent for her people. The author also covers a wide range of 15th-century Spanish society, from the Familiars of the Inquisition to the Moorish slaves of a New Christian family.

The only thing I could have wished for is more writing. Wiseman could easily have fleshed out the book more than its little over 200 pages, which would have allowed for more character and plot development. Much of the romance and overall sequence of events seemed rushed, at times jumping a number of days or weeks without any filling-out. The complete story, however, certainly makes a worthwhile and informative historical read for a variety of audiences.
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LibraryThing member mamzel
Taking place in Spain during the time of the Inquisition and Torquemada, this book could be enjoyed by students in high school and middle school. Isabel and her family live in Toledo as devout Christians and her father is the personal physician to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Growing tensions
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surround them as the Jewish residents are told they must repent their religion or face torture and death. As she becomes aware of a faith different from hers, Isabel discovers that her family is Jewish and hiding that fact. A letter between Isabel's great-grandmother and Torquemada's grandmother proved that he has a Jewish heritage. Will this be enough to save them?

I love historical fiction and I love gutsy girl stories, however, my belief was sorely stretched when Isabel, who previously couldn't even be in the company of a boy without a chaperone, demanded entrance to speak to Torquemada, mass executioner and torturer, and demand that he free her father or she would make the letter public. Somehow it was hard to accept that a girl, closely raised by loving parents, could so easily confront such a large and evil person and blackmail them.

This is a small quibble, however, since I appreciate a story that takes place during this time period and highlights the flight of the Jews from Spain. The year of 1492 would be easily identifiable for most students and this would give a new aspect to that time.
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LibraryThing member ilikethesebooks
Even though I don't read much of it, Historical Fiction is definitely my favorite genre... which means that I am extra picky with it. There were somethings I enjoyed about The Last Song and some aspects that just did not do it for me.

Starting with the good (because starting with the not so good is
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too predictable). I really enjoyed the subject matter. The Spanish Inquisition is a huge moment in European history, yet I feel like I only know of the name and nothing that actually happened during it. This novel is the first that I've come across about the events, so naturally I was pretty interested. However, not everything was so great.

I find that more often then not, the language in a historical fiction novel (speaking solely of YA) sounds incredibly fake and forced. Either that or the historical way of speaking is mixed with the contemporary way of thinking. It just doesn't flow... Sadly, The Last Song was no exception in that regard.

My only other issue was that the parents did not seem realistic. THe novel start out with them being very understanding and loving toward their daughter. But then everything changes. They spring a marriage on her (which would probably actually have happened, but they don't listen when she tells them how horrible he is, when they seemed like the kind of parents who would have), act all secretive (but then still let her in it) and do many other things that were just very contradictory. I couldn't figure them out.

I wouldn't go anywhere close to saying that this novel is "bad", just that it is not what I hoped for.
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LibraryThing member rebecca191
Fourteen-year-old Isabel de Cardosa lives a privileged life as the only child of wealthy parents in Toledo, Spain in 1491. She lives in a nice house and has beautiful clothes. Her parents have always given her everything she wanted. But then everything changes. Her parents announce that she will be
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betrothed to Luis, a boy from a wealthy and respected family. Although Luis is her own age, Isabel hates him because he is cruel and selfish. She doesn’t understand why her parents, who always planned to choose a husband Isabel liked, would suddenly decide she must marry someone she hates.

Soon, Isabel learns the real reason for her parents’ decision. Although Isabel has been raised a devout Catholic, her family is Jewish. Her grandparents were forced to convert to save their lives, but her parents have continued to practice Jewish traditions in secret. Her parents hope that Isabel’s marriage to Luis will protect the family from the Inquisition, since Luis’s family is an old Catholic family. Isabel isn’t sure what to think at first. Curious about her heritage, she becomes friends with Yonah, a Jewish boy her age. Their friendship would be forbidden by her parents if they knew, because Yonah is openly Jewish and only the son of a craftsman. Soon her friendship with Yonah seems to be turning into something more, but then her father is arrested by the agents of the Inquisition. Isabel is desperate to find a way to save her father, no matter what the risks to herself.

I mainly wanted to read this book because it is about historical events not often written about in young adult fiction. Most historical fiction I have read with Jewish characters has been about either immigration to the United States (usually to New York City) or the Holocaust. While certainly those are very important topics, they are not the entirety of Jewish history. I love when young adult historical fiction explores events from history that are not frequently written about. Isabel, the main character of this book, is very brave and willing to do anything to save her family. The relationship between her and Yonah was very sweet and I would have liked to see it developed more, but perhaps that might not have been realistic given the historical setting. Although this book is about sad events, it’s not all depressing, it’s a very hopeful story too. I think readers who love young adult historical fiction but want to read something different than the typical book from this genre would enjoy this book.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.
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LibraryThing member UnrulySun
This is the story of young Isabel, daughter to the royal physician in the time of Ferdinand and Isabel of Spain. This is also the time of the Inquisition, a purge of all non-Catholics, dissenters, and political enemies. Isabel is a Converso, a New Christian-- her ancestors were Jewish, and her
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family still practices the old religion in secret. Torquemada the Grand Inquisitor gets wind of this, and Isabel has to figure out a way to save her friends and family.

This is a very direct, short book, written at what seems to be an elementary grade level, yet touching on some more adult themes and with some advanced vocabulary (particularly historical and religious terms). I don't mind challenging young readers, but the writing style seemed at odds with some of the graphic scenes. The premise and plot are interesting, but there isn't much substance or detail to really flesh out the story. (For instance, as an adult reader, I can draw from experience to imagine what a large, crowded, medieval Spanish marketplace must look and sound like, but young people will probably struggle with the lack of description and detail.) I think reluctant middle-grade readers may enjoy the tension and historical grit, but this one doesn't cross over well into an older YA market.
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LibraryThing member lawral
This ended up being a sweet little story, not something I ever thought I would say about a book that claims to be about the Spanish Inquisition. Rather than focusing on the horrors of the time period, Wiseman focuses on how Isabel, who was raised Catholic, comes to terms with the fact that her
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parents have been lying to her all along and she is actually Jewish. Her acceptance of herself and the Jewish community really is the driving force of the novel. In the course of her explorations, she meets Yonah, a boy her age who has grown up in the Jewish ghetto. The Last Song really is a book about finding out who you are with a cute little romance thrown in. The fear of the Spanish Inquisition a dull hum in the background.
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LibraryThing member msjessie
When I first came upon Eva Wiseman's novel about 15th century Spain, it sounded like it had everything going for it: an intrepid and conflicted main character, an infamous villain for the ages, an often-ignored but compelling event in history - until I opened the first chapter. What this ended up
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as was rather superficial story that is too short and too undeveloped to carry any kind of depth or real feeling. I was quickly disillusioned with what was in store for me in this very short young-adult historical novel because my expectations were severely let down by obvious and predictable plotting, little-to-no-characterization and inconsistencies. The Last Song tells the story of fourteen-year-old Isabel, and her family of Converso Catholics in the middle of the Inquistion of Torquemada, and was one I felt rather lukewarm about while reading.

Though this is a novel that cameos visits and appearances from actual historical personages (Ferdinand & Isabel, Torquemada, Isaac Abravanel) in addition to its cast of imaginary people, none of them have life. Torquemada is the architect of all the strife in the book but he is neither distinctive, compelling or charismatic as a villain. Much like Isabel's mother/Isabel's father/Isabel's love interest Yonah (seeing a pattern yet?), he is simply there, wooden and undeveloped. I also had issues with Caterina and Isabel after their husband/father is taken away twice by the holy Inquisition - this will get a bit spoilery so be warned! The family has had a plan in store for SEVENTY PAGES, one prepared for this exact event, and it has to happen twice with weeks before they use their "failproof" plan. I was so frustrated by this obvious cluelessness on behalf of the women that I saw it as a cheap method used to drive the plot forward. Seriously, how do two scared women fighting for their lives and family forget their "Get Out of Torture Free" card/letter?

The plot follows a fairly totally predictable route from the beginning on and never diverges into something greater, more original. Isabel's struggles and problems are no more unique than a thousand historical fiction YA heroines betrothed to someone they loathe with feelings for another, impossible match. It's hard to review a character with so little to recommend or distinguish her, because like I said earlier, Isabel was there. She was serviceable, she did what was required of her for the plot advancement and nothing more. If you erase "Isabel"'s name and input "Luis" "Caterina" or any other, the result would be the same: they played their defined roles and nothing less.

All that aside, I really do like the cover. It does a nice job of hinting at the blood and pain that accompany Torquemada and his familiars wherever they go.
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LibraryThing member Bitter_Grace
A fascinating look at the Spanish Inquisition from a young girl's point of view--a girl whose family is in danger because of their concealed Jewish background. Eve Wiseman clearly researched her subject thoroughly, and I thought the setting and atmosphere were rendered in believable detail. It's an
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interesting period of time, and one that I've never seen before in young adult literature. Unfortunately the prose was somewhat mechanical and the dialogue stilted and unnatural, so I never felt like there was a good sense of tension, and I could not engage with the characters or their predicament. Also, the idea of a teenage girl being allowed an audience with Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, was a bit much. Still, a good read that would lend itself well to classroom lessons.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
An engrossing story set in late 15th century Toledo during the Spanish Inquisition. The author does a fine job with historical detail creating a vivid sense of time and place, but the characters could have used a bit more depth and the plot was often predictable.
LibraryThing member brangwinn
Dark story about the Jewish during the Spanish Inquisition. Not sure the audience for this middle school book, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story told by a young girl who didn't know her family was Jewish. Knowing persecution ws coming they escaped.
LibraryThing member ShelleyDaugherty
This book explores one family's life during the Spanish Inquisition. A heartfelt look at what it is like to live in fear of exposure during a time of strife for many people. I have read little on this subject so it was nice to have this part of history explained to me in such detail. I had no idea
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that Jews were a prime target during the Inquisition. This book opened my eyes to many things such as arranged marriages, buying passages to freedom, the treatment of slaves during this time period, and living in a time when even your closest friends can quickly become your enemies out of fear.

Anyone who is a fan of historical fiction will dive right into this book. I believe the author does an excellent job of depicting the time period and the atrocities which occurred during the time. The characters are delightfully realistic and you can't help but empathize with their situation. Living the story through Isabel gives the reader an inside look of the in decisions she faces as she struggles to understand her changing faith when her family history is revealed to her. The book is clean and reader friendly. An excellent read for all ages.
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LibraryThing member SandSing7
An interesting story about the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 as a result of the Inquisition. The writing was on a 5th or 6th grade level so not particularly enticing for an adult read, but I enjoyed the recognition, especially in young adult literature, that anti-Semitism was present
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before the mid-1900s.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Young teenager Isabel lives with her parents in Toledo, Spain, where her father is a physician in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. When Isabel objects to her father's intent to betroth her to Luis, a repulsive teenager from an Old Christian family, she learns a closely held family secret.
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Isabel's family are conversos, Jews who converted to Christianity as a result of persecution. All conversos are in danger from Torquemada's inquisition. Isabel meets a Jewish boy, Yonah, who helps her learn about her family's Jewish faith. As Isabel and Yonah's friendship deepens, the inquisition threatens to separate them forever.

Isabel seemed a bit too childish for that era. She literally couldn't keep a secret to save her life. As soon as Isabel's parents confided in her and urged her to keep these secrets for the family's safety, she was off telling one of her friends – even new friends that she barely knew. The style leans a bit too much toward the didactic for my taste. The historical milieu seems to drive the plot rather than to provide a backdrop for it. Teen readers may not be bothered by some of the characteristics that troubled me as an adult reader. Young teen girls will identify with Isabel and her courage in the face of great danger.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.
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LibraryThing member EvelynBernard
What a good book for the young reader!

Isabel is a 15 year old young woman from a prominent family in Spain at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. She lives a life of privilege, wealth, devotion and security - until she learns a terrible secret. Her family are Christian to the world but actually
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practice their Jewish faith in secret.

The book assumes the reader has some knowledge of the the history of the Spanish Inquisition but even a reader with no historical knowledge would easily pick up on the sense of danger to be Jewish at that time.

Could there be more historical content? Could the characters be given a bit more depth? Yes to both those questions. I believe that the inquisitive reader would find the story interesting enough to look up more information on her/his own. I would not hesitate to recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member bpompon
A very short and sweet book that gets to the heart of the matter of the Spanish Inquisition. I'm not aware of very many books that cover this period of time for younger audiences, so this book is a nice addition. I just wish it had gone a little bit more in depth about the characters and culture of
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the time.
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LibraryThing member julieaduncan
Eva Weiseman's The Last Song gives young readers an interesting introduction to the Spanish Inquisition. Fourteen-year-old Isabel learns her family's terrible secret: that they have a Jewish background and her parents privately practice Jewish customs despite the front that they are devout
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Christians. This puts her family at incredible danger because of the Inquisition. They even arrange for Isabel to be betrothed to the son of an "old Christian" family in order to convince others of their loyalty to the Church. Isabel finds herself in several dangerous situations and faces quite a lot of internal conflict as she confronts her new heritage.

While others have criticized the lack of depth to the characters and possibly the plot, I found the book to be rather interesting. I had little knowledge about the Spanish Inquisition and it really opened my own eyes. I think for young readers, it would be an excellent introduction and background to the Inquisition and does what historical narratives should do: encourage you to find out more information about the history background. I think it also encourages children to think about their actions and how they affect others.
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LibraryThing member katylit
The Last Song, a story of Isabel and her family living in Toledo, Spain during the violent, treacherous times of the Inquistion. The vivid contrast of powerful Catholics, secure in their faith and their country with the Spanish Jews, ostracized, disenfranchised, and vulnerable is compelling. We
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share Isabel's experiences with both religions and lifestyles as the story takes her through surprising revelations, danger and young love.

I really enjoyed this story and believe it to be a great introduction for young people to become acquainted with this period of history.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
The Last Song by Eva Wiseman is a story of intrigue and escape during the early days of the Spanish Inquisition.

Isabel attends Mass regularly and finds great consolation in prayer, so it comes as a shock when she discovers that her family is of Jewish heritage, and her parents secretly practice the
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old faith. In Toledo, Spain in 1491, secrets like that can have disastrous consequences. In spite of the danger, Isabel feels an irresistible curiosity about her heritage. She secretly befriends Yonah, the son of a Jewish silversmith, who takes her to places where she can learn covertly about her parents' faith. Isabel and Yonah's friendship might even become something more -- but Isaebel is betrothed to Luis, a cruel and loutish boy, but the son of an Old Christian family. Isabel's parents hope that this connection will keep Isabel safe in Spain's volatile political atmosphere, but Isabel feels that the price may be too high. Can she find another way to escape persecution, one that doesn't involve marrying Luis?

The real strength of this novel is the setting. Wiseman obviously did her research, and Isabel's world is described in vivid detail. Unfortunately, the characters, dialogue, and plot are less powerful. I found Isabel annoying, Too Stupid To Live at times -- she makes impulsive decisions that put her life, her friends' lives, and her family's lives in danger on a whim. None of the secondary characters were particularly nuanced or rounded, and the dialogue often seemed a bit stilted. It's not that this is a bad book -- it's just not a great one. Readers with a particular interest in Jewish history, the Spanish Inquisition, or historical fiction in general may want to take a look, but others will probably be okay to skip this one.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
Set during the Spanish Inquisition, this story for teen readers relates the story of Isabel and her family who became "good Christians" to avoid Jewish persecution. Isabel herself never even realized that her family was Jewish until she hears other Christians calling her family names. To try to
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avoid what they see as impending persecution of Jews who became Christians and still practice their faith, they arrange a marriage between Isabel and a Christian boy. Isabel detests the boy and protests the marriage. It's even apparent the boy will be a spousal abuser. The book contains arrests, a burning scene, and some glimpses of hope. The families are not sure who their friends are and who their enemies are because it is obvious there is an informant in their midst. It's a piece of historical fiction for young adults covering an era that has a story that needs to be heard, but it's likely to be more popular with female readers than male ones. Most characters are developed adequately for their roles in the story. The narrative did not always flow as naturally as it could have nor did the tension mount as it could have. It's still a great read. This review is based on an e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.
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LibraryThing member Mrs.DuBois
I knew very little about the Spanish Inquisition, so I was quite excited to receive this historical fiction YA book set during that time. It is the story of Isabel, raised Catholic, who finds that this has been a lie. In reality her family was Jewish and had hidden this to remain safe. Isabel
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discovers more about the Jewish faith through her parents but primarily through clandestine arrangements made by Yonah with whom she falls in love. Unfortunately Isabel is betrothed to Luis, the son of the king and Queen's trusted advisor.
Fascinating in its subject matter, I found the book to be lacking in character development. It did impress me with the importance of faith in world history.
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