Monday, 6 May 2013

The Inquisitor's Wife: A Novel of Renaissance Spain

Author: Jeanne Kalogridis
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: e-book ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: St Martin's Press
To Be Published: May 7, 2013
First Line: "Christ-killers, they call us, but we did not crucify their Jesus; we were bitter exiles in Babylon when he died in Jerusalem."

Note: My thanks to St Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Description: In 1480 Seville, Marisol, a fearful young conversa (descendant of Spanish Jews forced to convert to Christianity), is ashamed of her Jewish blood. Forced into a sham marriage with a prosecutor for the new Inquisition, Marisol soon discovers that her childhood sweetheart, Antonio, has just returned to Seville and is also working for the inquisitors. When Marisol’s father is arrested and tortured during Spain’s first auto da fe, Marisol comes to value her Jewish heritage and vows to fight the Inquisition. When she discovers that her beloved Antonio is working to smuggle conversos safely out of Spain, she joins him and risks her life on behalf of her people; a passionate romance follows.

Unfortunately, Marisol does not realize that her supposedly kind and gentle inquisitor-husband has been using her all along to lead Antonio and her fellow conversos to their doom...

My Thoughts:  Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres which simply means that I love learning about different eras in history with a great story thrown in for good measure.  So when I saw that this book was set in Spain during the Inquisition I jumped at the chance to review it.  Before reading this book I will sheepishly admit that I knew practically nothing about the Inquisition, Conversos or the horrors that the Jewish population had to endure in the 1400's. 

Being a big fan of Historical Fiction also means that I've read a lot of books in this genre.  A tonne.  Not necessarily from the same era but the style and feel of the genre is similar.  I figured picking up an historical fiction read would help to give me a general understanding of the era all wrapped up in a delicious storyline full of wonderful characters.  

While this book did open my eyes to the brutality and injustice of this period, overall I didn't find it quite as captivating as I was hoping.  I think this stems mainly from my lack of connection with the main character, Marisol.  She came off as very na├»ve and one-dimensional.  I didn't feel like I really got to know her (or the other characters very well).  I would have loved to get the point of view of Mariam, Marisol's servant as well as Gabriel, Marisol's new husband.  We get a brief glimpse into Mariam's life (one of my favourite parts of the book) but I would have loved to get her inner thoughts as Marisol's life was in turmoil.

And then there's Gabriel, Marisol's new husband.  The description given of him on the book (see excerpt above) notes that he is a 'kind and gentle inquisitor'.  I have a big issue with this description because that is the complete opposite of what his character is like. He wasn't in the book very much and when he was he was an absolute brute who only bowed down to his malicious brother.  Not sure why that was added into the synopsis but it is a far from fitting portrayal of the character.

My other issues with the book are the slow pace and the predictability.  Marisol seemed to be shocked at the reason for her marriage to Gabriel but unfortunately the reason was glaringly apparent to me right from the start.  Plus the surprise ending I saw coming from early on and I found that the ending was tied up much too neatly for my tastes and bordered on being an unlikely situation. 

I was truly hoping for a much more interesting and fast paced read full of interesting characters, drama and plot twists; a book that I could get lost in.  Unfortunately I found the pace so slow that I found myself glossing over paragraphs.  I felt that the characters under-developed and the plot twists were predictable.  

What this book did give me was a better understanding of the Inquisition as well as some of the history of the Jewish people during this time.  It showcases the blatant and undeserved malice and injustice that was shown towards an entire group of people merely because of their religion.  Unfortunately, as we all know, history would sadly repeat itself. 

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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