(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Spain had been one of the world’s most tolerant societies for eight hundred years, but that way of life was wiped out by the Inquisition. Isabel’s family feels safe from the terrors, torture, and burnings. After all, her father is a respected physician in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Isabel was raised as a Catholic and doesn’t know that her family’s Jewish roots may be a death sentence. When her father is arrested by Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, she makes a desperate plan to save his life – and her own.
Once again, master storyteller Eva Wiseman brings history to life in this riveting and tragic novel.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
I honestly couldn’t have been more disappointed in this novel; it’s pretty hard to make a story set in the Spanish Inquisition boring but Eva Wiseman certainly managed to. The main problem was that the writing style of this book is awful. It’s essentially this: Isabel did [x]. She didn’t know how she felt about it. Then she reacted to [y]. She felt sad about it.
Are you snoring yet? That’s basically how the entire book goes. We are told something happens, then told how Isabel feels about it without actually seeing what happens or seeing anything resembling emotions from our main character. It’s like she’s carved from wood! Not only that, there are so many inconsistencies in her character because she goes from “Ugh, Jews” to “sure I’ll go dress as a boy, sneak out of my house and go to a Torah study session with this boy I just met a couple of days ago”. We’re told she warred about the decision but it really didn’t feel like it at all. Just like when we’re told she’s worried about her father in Torquemada’s custody but you don’t really get the feeling that she is.
This is a middle grade novel so obviously some things are left out or simplified, but with this excruciatingly boring kind of writing style it was also impossible to empathize with any of the characters. They’re basically just stereotypes that you find in a thousand other middle grade novels. Isabel is the poor little rich girl who’s betrothed to a man she hates, her mother is the melodramatic sickly type, her father has always been the supportive and encouraging one who then admonishes her for thinking independently, etc. Even Yonah, a character who could have been quite interesting, was boring because Eva Wiseman never really went into the hows and whys of his character. He just exists to guide Isabel to Judaism and be the love interest, not to have anything resembling a personality.
My final problem with this book is that it was so predictable. A poor little rich girl gets betrothed to a man she hates, something comes along that makes that betrothal impossible and she gets to marry the man of her dreams, usually a person of much lower rank and/or wealth. Pretty much the whole book was summarized in the blurb above, so there were no real surprises in either the characters or the plot. The Last Song wasn’t even particularly poignant at the end, when the Jews and ‘Moors’ are expelled from Spain on pain of death. It should have been a touching, sad moment but it wasn’t. This book just totally lacked emotion.
What can I say? If you like being told a story but not actually having to think about it for yourself and discover things about the characters, I suppose this book is for you. If you like three dimensional characters or unpredictable plots, I can’t even recommend it. I just don’t see where there’s anyone who would like this novel, aside from pre-teens and early teens who have never read about the Spanish Inquisition.
I give this book 1/5 stars.