This is a magical piece of historical-fiction.
This is the story of Estrella, a normal-in-every-way Spanish teenager in the 1500's.
Her world shatters quite suddenly when the inquisition starts, and she learns that she is a Marrano- She comes from a family of Jews who converted to Christianity and practice their faith in secret. Their identities are hidden at all cost, and they are risking their lives living this way. All traditions they practice are masked over by christian ones, and her family studies and teaches the mystic Jewish teachings of the Kabbalah in hiding.
Estrella knew none of this and is suddenly awakened to the cruel world of the inquisition where the Marranos are being hunted. People are starting to be put to death and tortured the minute their faith is questioned.
The world is a magical one, starting in a lazy childhood with haze and quickly being shattered with the realizations of living a lie. Darkness seeps in. Lots of backstabbing and betrayal. Estrella tries to come to terms with the world she lives in and discover who she really is, along with avoiding death and the persecution of her beloved family.
I am very fond of Alice Hoffman's writing. She can add magic and mysticality to a story in a way no one else can. She also writes incredibly interesting historical fiction (The Dovekeepers is one one my favorite books and highly recommended). I was shocked at how similar the story is to holocaust stories I've read or heard of. It's appalling how dark and sinister the human race can be, how history repeats it self- this story happening hundreds of years before the holocaust we all know of. It's a heavy subject, but a short book, writing quite simply. Very descriptive, the story has many reoccurring symbols that layer the story with depth and meaning.
I feel like we forget more distant histories, and how things like this happen and repeat themselves. Its a dark world, but this book sheds light. You might also shed some tears.
Betrayal, forbidden love, faith, identity, friendship, family and magic. The forces of dark and light. Belonging. Meaning.
Sad, but hopeful and VERY recommended.