Zorro: A Novel

by Isabel Allende

Other authorsMargaret Sayers Peden (Translator)
Hardcover, 2005

Call number




Harper (2005), Edition: 1st, 400 pages


Diego de la Vega, the son of an aristocratic Spanish landowner and a Shoshone mother, returns to California from school in Spain to reclaim the hacienda on which he was raised and to seek justice for the weak and helpless.

Media reviews

This hard-charging style, nicely captured by Margaret Sayers Peden's translation, is one of Allende's strengths: she dashes off long, sweeping paragraphs that dance with energy. Her prose is casually sensuous (''power was passed from hand to hand like a coin''), and her characters are large and archetypal, cut from mythic patterns. Mischievous Don Diego, the future Zorro, and his ''milk brother,'' Bernardo, move through the California landscape like Western versions of Tom and Huck.
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…Allende wants to have some fun, and in this she succeeds with a variety of spunk and good cheer.

…I am amazed at how enjoyable a picaresque novel can be, particularly one imbued with swashbuckling, swordplay, honor, hidden desire, unlikely coincidence and a good old-fashioned villain. Such elements are a reminder of the attractions of one of the main strains of world literature that starts with Don Quixote.

…the book has plenty of what Hollywood would call non-stop action, and this is told with a pleasure so keen on the author's part that it's difficult not to be swept up in it.

Reckless, unstable, attention-seeking, hysterical, sexually provocative, given to histrionic gestures, and with at least a split, dual or possibly even a multiple personality, Zorro is the archetypal neurotic-as-hero. He also wears a mask. Obviously, out in the real world, you'd lock him up and throw away the key. On the page, though, he's absolutely irresistible.

The story of Diego de la Vega, the son of an aristocratic Spanish landowner and a Native American Shoshone warrior, who becomes Zorro while traveling the world with his dependable sidekick Bernardo, is clearly a perfect fit for the author of The House of the Spirits and The Stories of Eva Luna.

User reviews

LibraryThing member dulcibelle
I've always enjoyed the Zorro legend, but had never really thought too much about his background. Allende fills in that hole admirably. Eminently readable and an exciting ride thru turn of the century (the 19th century) California and Spain, this book just sings.

Allende occasionally steps out of the role of dispassionate narrator and brings herself into the story - "And now, dear reader, let me tell you what happens next". The first couple of times this happens are a little jarring because it's totally unexpected, but by the end of the book, the reader feels that s/he is sharing an inside joke with the narrator.

The notes at the end of the book explain that Allende was approached by Zorro Productions (owner of the character's copyright) to write this book. She almost turned them down, but I'm really glad she didn't. This is a beautiful book.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
In Zorro, Isabel Allende delves into the story of the pulp fiction hero and tells how Diego de la Vega becomes Zorro. Staying within the confines of the legend and yet telling a fresh and innovative story, she traces the life of Don Diego, born to a wealthy Spanish landowner and a Indian woman, raised in California with his Indian blood brother, Bernardo, schooled in Spain, all the while learning and perfecting his alter-ego, Zorro. He then returns to California to fight for justice for the downtrodden and ill-used.

Staying true to the historical background of both Napoleonic Europe and the Spanish held colony of California, the author breathes life into the myth that originally saw the light of day in various dime store novels. I, myself, fell in love with Zorro when watching the late fifties TV show with Guy Williams and then again in 1998 with the movie The Mask of Zorro starring Antonio Banderas. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to any Zorro fan.

Offering respect to a legend and giving him a fully fleshed character, all the while writing in an expressive, passionate and, at times, humorous manner, Zorro is a compelling saga that offers romance, adventure and plenty of action.
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LibraryThing member shieldwolf
"Born in southern California late in the eighteenth century, he is a child of two worlds. Diego de la Vega's father is an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner; his mother, a Shoshone warrior. Diego learns from his maternal grandmother, White Owl, the ways of her tribe while receiving from his father lessons in the art of fencing and in cattle branding. It is here, during Diego's childhood, filled with mischief and adventure, that he witnesses the brutal injustices dealt Native Americans by European settlers and first feels the inner conflict of his heritage." "At the age of sixteen, Diego is sent to Barcelona for a European education. In a country chafing under the corruption of Napoleonic rule, Diego follows the example of his celebrated fencing master and joins La Justicia, a secret underground resistance movement devoted to helping the powerless and the poor. With this tumultuous period as a backdrop, Diego falls in love, saves the persecuted, and confronts for the first time a great rival who emerges from the world of privilege." "Between California and Barcelona, the New World and the Old, the persona of Zorro is formed, a great hero is born, and the legend begins. After many adventures - duels at dawn, fierce battles with pirates at sea, and impossible rescues - Diego de la Vega, a.k.a. Zorro, returns to America to reclaim the hacienda on which he was raised and to seek justice for all who cannot fight for it themselves."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
LibraryThing member banshea
By Allende's reckoning, protagonists are lost in the world if the stories don't start with the stories of their parents or even their grandparents. It takes a very long time for this book to actually get around to Zorro, but the result is an immersive world created through lyrical prose. Fans of Zorro may have a difficult time at first, but fans of Allende will not be disappointed. It's clear that Allende found the story to be a tremendous amount of fun -- the sheer joy of writing it shines through the printed words.… (more)
LibraryThing member reannon
Isabel Allende in this novel takes all the elements of the legend of Zorro and turns them into a compelling novel. Diego de la Vega is born in Alta California, three-quarters Spanish and one quarter Indian. His mother's Indian servant gives birth the same day to Bernardo, and for the rest of their lives the two boys are closer than brothers.

Allende builds her hero, Zorro, element by element. His Indian grandmother teaches the boys about nature, spirit, and healing. While finishing his education in Spain, he learns the sword from a master, and the Gypsies he gets to know in Spain teach him sleight-of-hand and showmanship. He learns balance on the ships to and from Spain.

More than that, Allende creates compelling characters, Diego, Bernardo, Diego's parents, the sisters Juliana and Isobel, and the pirate Jean Lafitte.

Fine read.
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LibraryThing member plyon
A child of two worlds -- the son of an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner and a Shoshone warrior woman -- young Diego de la Vega cannot silently bear the brutal injustices visited upon the helpless in late-eighteenth-century California. And so a great hero is born -- skilled in athleticism and dazzling swordplay, his persona formed between the Old World and the New -- the legend known as Zorro.… (more)
LibraryThing member darlenejoy
Isabel Allende is one of my favorite writers, and with Zorro, she gains further admiration.

This is her version of the legend of Zorro– that swashbuckling masked crusader for justice. He is Diego dela Vega, born to a Spanish father and a half-American Indian mother, raised in a California hacienda in the early 1800’s. He is educated in both parents’ cultures– together with his milk brother Bernardo, Diego learns how to fence and how to apply Indian medicine. At fifteen he is sent to Spain to study and it is here that he grabs his destiny by the reins and invents his alter-ego, Zorro (meaning ‘fox’). Like a fox, he is quick, mysterious, and cunning. With the help of gypsies and a secret league, Diego learns the skills that will make him a legend.

His five years in Spain are memorable ones, building his character. He falls in love with Juliana, the daughter of his father’s friend who has been his host in Barcelona. When misfortune strikes the family, Diego aids them and sails back to the United States with Juliana and her sister Isabel. He finds out though, that his own family needs rescuing too. Here he takes Zorro to the next level, vanquishing his enemies and putting the crusader’s name on everyone’s lips for generations to come.

Allende writes the story from a first-person point of view, although the narrator’s identity is not revealed until the very end. The novel is funny and thoroughly engaging. Whenever I read Allende works time would pass by so quickly and before I knew it, I’d reached the end. This one is no exception. The characters are well-fleshed out, making them seem like my friends. Of course, this is an adventure story, so don’t expect ultra-realistic 3D characterisation. It’s a legend and a happy story so the main characters end up happy and the villains are somewhat one-dimensional but it is a very fun read.

I also found it educational as she weaved in some Indian and gypsy culture stories. I also liked that she linked some significant American and European historical events to the story. I don’t know how much literary license she took, but it all made for an entertaining novel.

In the epilogue the narrator hints of other stories to tell, and I wonder if there’s a sequel or spin-off to this. She has done this before, weaving a new story, “Portrait in Sepia,” out of characters in “Daughter of Fortune.”

I think that Allende proves her versatility here. I have read only her ‘dramatic’ books and none of her young adult novels yet but I’m glad to know that she can take comedy and adventure as well as she does drama and tragedy.

Rating: 4 out of 5, ok! I recommend this. If there’s a sequel or spin-off I’ll surely read it too.
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LibraryThing member TanyaTomato
Fictional account of legend of Zorro. Too many characters that don't lead anywhere. Seems to be leading up to something all the way through to the last page, but never gets there. Still she is a great writer for historical realness.
LibraryThing member Clurb
Something a little different from Allende's normal stuff, but its still really good.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
Another library book. A fun story. I prefered the story by Jan Adkins. He seemed to have a better hold of his character's character. Also, this often seemed to slip into romance novel mode. However, it was a fun story, not painful to read. I probably won't read her other books though.
LibraryThing member Joycepa
Retells the Zorro tale but from a much more mystical point of view. Set in 17th century southern California, Allende, as usual, has strong women characters as well as the male protagonist and his Native American companion. She weaves in Shoshone culture, which plays a crucial role in the story.
LibraryThing member MarquesadeFlambe
As a big fan of the character and the genre, I was surprisingly disappointed. All the blatant attempts to update the character and shoehorn the story into every version of Zorro mythology could have been overlooked if the writing hadn't so often abandoned dialogue for narration in times where the former would have worked better.… (more)
LibraryThing member birdy47
Thought this book was great. I had no idea of Zorro's story, haven't seen the films or the old TV series. I was a little disappointed as I expected a lot more "swash buckling".
LibraryThing member opinion8dsngr
Pirate kidnappings, sword fights, voodoo rituals, prison escapes, spirit journeys, Gypsy circuses-- if you can think of something that sounds adventurous then Allende has tried to use it in this novel. Well written, and containing interesting and believable characters, the book still has some problems. In places the plot seemed forced and there was at least one notable hole in the storyline. I expected better from someone whose work is usually of a much higher grade. Also, I never really did feel much pathos for Zorro. Even in his super-hero form he was too much of a fop.
Despite these issues, however, the book is a fun read. The author has created a through and detailed world of caballeros and damsels thrown into a nearly realistic political drama of good and evil. The book, like its hero, is far from perfect, but it certainly ranks as at least interesting.
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LibraryThing member littlebookworm
This book was definitely entertaining; Diego's adventures are fun. I think this book is missing something, though. I didn't feel connected to it, maybe because Diego disappointed me in the end. I think everything was too simply done, allowing the book to be enjoyable with little to feel emotional about. I did like it as I was reading it, but I can definitely feel the lack now that I've finished.

Allende's writing (as much as I can tell from the translation) is engaging, wonderful, and light. No problems there. It is simply the cookie-cutter characters that failed to live up to their promise. There is a villain, and there are several heroes, and after the opening promises of character development, none of them move forward. That is what disappointed me.
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LibraryThing member swelldame
I picked this book up based solely on the excellent reputation of Isabel Allende and was not disappointed. Though I have little interest in the legend of Zorro, I found this book captivating. Allende’s prose is beautifully lyrical. I was mesmerized by her rich descriptions of locales, particularly Southern California. The action was just as exciting and daring as I would have expected.… (more)
LibraryThing member vfranklyn
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It's clever and funny and moves surprisingly well. I wasn't big on the introduction of the author into the book, though. I did like that Zorro was a human character that we got to know from childhood.
LibraryThing member vegaheim
super, fast read because it is gripping and interesting.couldn't put down
LibraryThing member bookcoll
Great fun! This brings back memories of the Tyrone Power movie and the TV series with more humor and sensitivity. Wearing the mask apparently was not only to protect Zorro's real identity, but to pin back his ears!
LibraryThing member GoofyOcean110
This is the tale of Diego de la Vega and how he became Zorro. It's great. It's got everything. Adventure and romance, duels and fencing, pirates and caballeros, New World and Old, what more could you want? Fortunes are made, lost, and restored again. Heroics, antics, and bravado are the tools of the trade. Fate and characters' trajectories are apparent but veiled, and all told with a sweeping narration with all the embellishments of a tall-tale. Set against the epic backdrop of Spanish California and Napoleonic conquests, the settings and scenes were quite vivid. So much so, that as written, it would make a fantastic movie, even though there was hardly any dialogue and action was generally episodic rather than continuous (at least for the first half).

The only minor detraction was the intermittent interruption of the voice of the narrator, but it provided a sense of an actual person telling the story, though somehow the narrator was rather omniscient. I felt the second half was better than the first, especially once the plot really started thickening with the real rise of rivalry between De La Vega and Raphael Moncada. A fun book club choice, though I'm not sure how much meat there is to discuss - it's just a fun romp.
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LibraryThing member cindyloumn
I usually love her books. But this was actually boring. Only highlight was the part abou Juliana, the girl he loved, and the pirate Jean Lafitte, and how they ended up together. That was interesting, and I hope she does a story about them.
LibraryThing member TadAD
A light-hearted and fun book, though Tyrone Power in "The Mark of Zorro" will always be my standard for this story. Ms. Allende's portrayal gives us not only a more rounded Zorro, but much deeper female roles.
LibraryThing member Nigeria456
This novel tells the story of Diego De La Vega whose love for justice drives him to become the black clad hero known as Zorro. I enjoyed this novel because I learned that just about anyone can make a difference. The action-packed novel should be read by everyone.
LibraryThing member janeajones
A readable adventure tale of the making of Zorro -- Diego's childhood and adolescence. It's a far cry from Allende's earlier magical realism, but it touches on historical events of the early 19th century -- the persecution of California Indians under Spanish rule, the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, the Romany in Spain, and the New Orleans of the pirate, Jean Lafitte and voodoo priestess, Marie LaVeau. Entertaining, but certainly not my favorite Allende.… (more)
LibraryThing member wvlibrarydude
I was sadly disappointed by this telling of Zorro. There were a few action scenes that came close to becoming exciting, but they always seemed a little detached with too much observation and no real depth of personal connection. The storytelling was humorless, and seemed too much of a catalog of tales to explain the story of Zorro that many of us learned from watching the shows or movies. I was simply left with no desire to read anything else by Allende. Sigh.… (more)




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