Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Book Review: Prisoner Of The Inquisition by Theresa Breslin

Goodreads description

Zarita is used to basking in the pampered lifestyle being the only daughter of the town magistrate affords; she is free to roam the town as she likes, consort with the son of a nobleman and spend her days studying the arts. Saulo's family have fallen on hard times, and when his father is hanged for an assault on Zarita he did not commit and Saulo is hauled off to be a slave at sea, Saulo swears revenge. But when Zarita's mother dies in childbirth, and the formidable and frightening Inquisition arrives in the area, a curtain of suspicion and brutality comes down on her old life for good. Saulo may believe that Zarita is his sworn enemy, but in a time when the whole of Spain is in turmoil, are him and Zarita each other's only hope of survival?

My review

This is the third Theresa Breslin book and I'm glad to say that I enjoyed one of her books yet again because she is so masterful at spinning good stories.

Zarita is the daughter of a wealthy town magistrate but tragedy strikes her family when her mother dies in child birth and the dreaded Inquisition travel to their town a few months after. At fifteen, she is informally betrothed to a handsome nobleman Ramon Salazar who pays lots of attention to her but she is soon plagued by an action that cost a man his life and his son his freedom. This is what connects her and the narrator Saulo together. At the beginning of the book Zarita comes across as quite spoilt and naive because she doesn't know the ways of the world and can be stubborn at times but she has a good heart and shows this by her kindness and willingness to help people.

Saulo's family are poor and must spend all their money on his sick mother so his father is reduced to going out begging. When his life is turned upside down, his heart is filled with feelings of revenge that he cannot contain. I could sympathise with the great pain Saulo experienced near the beginning of the book and understand his anger at the people who made it happen but this didn't wear off over time and he refused to forgive and move on with his life. It was this that kept me from really liking his character and also his streak of arrogance. He wasn't an altogether person because he was very gentlemanly with the women he fell in love with, risked lots for the people he cared about and learned to change but I couldn't help feeling that his lady  deserved better than him.

What I liked most about this book was that I've never read anything about the Spanish Inquisition before and so I didn't know the first thing about it so I was really interested to find out more about this historical event. It turned out that I found it fascinating although horrific and I learnt a lot about it through the description in the story. Whilst some of the scenes that could have happened in the Inquisition were gruesome, they showed the grim reality of what happened and added strength and integrity to the story to make me realise how much danger the characters were in. Theresa Breslin dealt with them well and manged to get me thinking about the social injustice and religious intolerance that was happening. This book definitely made me glad that I live in the 21st century!

The writing built up a sense of being in the action amongst the characters through the lovely prose and I thought Theresa Breslin did well switching between the narration of Zarita and Saulo without making the book too disjointed. This format also helped to build up tension and drama because I had to battle to resist the temptation to flick to the next chapter to find out what happens next in the character I've just left's story. I thought the story was well paced too, which allowed for a cast of three dimensional secondary characters such as Christopher Colombus and Zarita's Aunt.

However, I didn't connect with Zarita and Saulo as much as I would have liked to for some reason even though I cared about what  happened to each of them and was rooting for events to turn out in their favour. Despite this, both the characters were well developed and went on a journey that changed them over the course of the book.  I think the reason I didn't completely connect is because I didn't feel  inside their heads or feel as deeply connected to them as characters in other books despite the first person narration. It was because of this that I took away half a star from the rating because characters are a very important part of the book for me.

Also, although I was satisfied with the ending in terms of what happened to the characters and it gave an ending to the character's story, I wish that it had been carried on for a few more pages.
Verdict/ Quick Read: I loved finding out more about The Spanish Inquisition through The Prisoner Of The Inquisition and the story was very emotional, dramatic and gripping with themes of revenge, betrayal, religious intolerance and sweet romance. However I would have liked to have felt closer to the characters.  I would recommend it to fans of YA historical fiction and fans of Theresa Breslin.

Rating: a strong 3.5 stars


  1. I thought Saulo was hard to connect with...and Zarita at the beginning was so horrible, and I didnt like her much then either...I'll post my review later. And I understood what was happening at the end perfectly well...

  2. The Spanish Inquisition is definitely scary stuff. Some of the torture methods they used were just horrible ...

  3. I think I may have read this...well I read something related to this book. It's very interesting.

  4. I was just saying yesterday how I'd like to read more about the Inquisition! What good timing. I hope I'm able to connect with the characters more though. I'm a character girl too.


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