I don’t remember when or why, exactly, but as a kid growing up I was always fascinated by the legend of Zorro. I think part of was growing up in California and partly due to the cheesy TV show that was on the Family Channel, waaaay back in the day. Either way, he was my superhero as a kid. Batman was a close second. But it was just so much cooler to see Zorro fight with a sword than a gun. To a little kid it just seems more dangerous.
Zorro came out just after I returned to the U.S. after living in Spain for a year, and low and behold, there’s a whole section of the book where Diego de la Vega (Zorro) ends up living in Spain. So there were a lot of connections between me and the story. So I snatched up a copy of the original version in Spanish, oh how my Spanish skills laughed, and plowed right in. Ten years later, I still hadn’t finished the book. Since this is my year of reading through my book shelf, I decided to start over and try it again. Well ten years have vastly improved my Spanish and suddenly the plot jumped out at me more than it had the first time.
I can’t tell you a whole lot about the plot because it would spoil all of the fun. But I will say that Isabel Allende (she of House of Spirits fame) does a spectacular job at balancing content with adventure. While Ms. Allende is more well known for her meatier literary works, this must’ve been a fun write for her because she really seems to have poured a lot of fun into the novel. There’s sword fights, pirates, gypsies, pilgrimages, sea voyages, feminism, coming-of-age, Old World vs. New World, religious contention, etc. While this may sound a little much like Clive Cussler’s ilk, Ms. Allende doesn’t cater to stereotypes or flat dialogue. She’s adept at keeping the plot sailing along while also giving us something to think about.
I highly recommend this book (in English or Spanish), but I would say that if you’ve read any of Ms. Allende’s other works, this is very different. So it won’t be an equal counter part to House of Spirits. So get your mask and cape on and get to reading!