From Publishers Weekly
Allende's lively retelling of the Zorro legend reads as effortlessly as the hero himself might slice his trademark "Z" on the wall with a flash of his sword. Born Diego de la Vega in 1795 to the valiant hidalgo, Alejandro, and the beautiful Regina, the daughter of a Spanish deserter and an Indian shaman, our hero grows up in California before traveling to Spain. Raised alongside his wet nurse's son, Bernardo, Diego becomes friends for life with his "milk brother," despite the boys' class differences. Though born into privilege, Diego has deep ties to California's exploited natives—both through blood and friendship—that account for his abiding sense of justice and identification with the underdog. In Catalonia, these instincts as well as Diego's swordsmanship intrigue Manuel Escalante, a member of the secret society La Justicia. Escalante recruits Diego into the society, which is dedicated to fighting all forms of oppression, and thus begins Diego's construction of his dashing, secret alter ego, Zorro. With loyal Bernardo at his side, Zorro hones his fantastic skills, evolves into a noble hero and returns to California to reclaim his family's estate in a breathtaking duel. All the while, he encounters numerous historical figures, who anchor this incredible tale in a reality that enriches and contextualizes the Zorro myth. Allende's latest page-turner explodes with vivid characterization and high-speed storytelling.
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*Starred Review* Allende, born in Peru and raised in Chile, now resides in California, and out of her abiding interest in Spanish American and California history and culture, she has fashioned her historical fiction (including the companion novels Daughter of Fortune
, 1999, and Portrait in Sepia
, 2001). In her latest historical novel, she imaginatively creates, in the words of the narrator, "the origins of the legend"--the legend being none other than Zorro, the famous Robin Hood of eighteenth-century colonial California. The novel's conceit is that the testimony offered here is a bird's-eye view of the provenance of Zorro as recorded by someone who knew him well, but the identity of that person is not revealed until the novel's end. Allende's complete familiarity with setting includes not only the "custom of the country" in Southern California when still in Spanish hands but also the complicated political atmosphere of Spain itself during the Napoleonic era, to which Diego de la Vega is dispatched as a teenager for his formal education. It is in Spain where the physical disguise of Zorro and the social-reform mentality that motivates him first bear adult fruit. (Diego is one-quarter Native American and thus understands the downtrodden.) Allende's mesmerizing narrative voice never loses timbre or flags in either tension or entertainment value. To describe her as a clever novelist is to signify that she is both inventive and intelligent. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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