Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin

Zarita is the rich daughter of the town magistrate, at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, 1483. Her mother is ill with Zarita’s unborn sibling, and when she takes a trip to the Church to make an offering, a beggar touches her in pursuit of a coin to buy medicine for his sick wife, and she accuses him of assault. The beggar is brought before the magistrate, where, against Zarita’s will, he is executed. The news that Zarita’s baby brother died comes soon after. The executioners spot Saulo, the beggar’s son, watching in the bushes, and they take him off to be a slave on a galley ship. Then Saulo takes up the narrative, and vows vengeance on the magistrate, Zarita, and all his family. He is put on a boat to be a slave rower, and there he meets Captain Cosimo, who takes him away on his ship, and, after after learning about the boy’s aptitude for maths and languages, makes him his navigator.Meanwhile Zarita’s mother has died soon after childbirth, and her father remarried to the spiteful Lorena, who does anything she can to make her step daughter’s life miserable. Zarita then remembers about the beggar’s wife, and goes out on a search for her, and with the help of a Jewish doctor, she finds her, dying so she takes her to her aunt’s convent and nurses her until her final hours. By now the Inquisition has arrived to drive out all the non-Catholics, and the town lives in fear, with people being tortured and burned for heresy. Zarita’s father then decides that, because she has not gotten married yet, and will not get married, she must be sent away to her Aunt Beatriz’ convent to be shut away and live life as a nun. Whilst this happens, Saulo is battling pirates, and when the ship is taken over and Captain Cosimo dies, Saulo is given his peacock-blue velvet coat, where the Captain has sewn his life’s earnings. Saulo is rich, and after meeting the renowned Christopher Columbus who is planning his journey across the Atlantic, he returns to Spain to seek his revenge. He visits the magistrate’s house, where he burns it to the ground, killing Zarita’s father, but not Lorena, who is about to give birth. She is taken to the convent, where a baby boy is born with the help of the Jewish doctor, but Lorena is dying, and she confesses everything she has done, including the letter she wrote to the Inquisition about Zarita. Then Zarita goes to the Royal Court where she is captured and given a sentence to be burned at the stake for heresy. Lorena told the Inquisition that Zarita and her father were Jews. Will she survive? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

In all honesty, at the beginning of this book I didn’t think it was incredibly interesting, and this continued throughout the first five chapters or so, as it didn’t really get off to a racing start. I would say that it is not one for everyone, but by the end I was more interested and involved in the story. I liked how the story starts by giving you a prologue of complete irrelevance to what you are about to read, and then the last chapter is just a repeat of the prologue which rounds off the story nicely. It was definitely a very well-researched book, with many of the facts and characters completely true, and overall I think it was well written, it just wasn’t the best book I had ever read.




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