Shadow of the Green Cross
Isabel Alvares is the daughter of a prominent Jewish bookseller. Her family is forced into baptism by the Spanish Inquisition when she is four years old, and Pedro de Cuelho is 14 when he participates in the chaotic forced baptism. He never forgets Isabel, a beautiful, strong-willed child. When she is older, Isabel is running her father’s bookshop when Pedro takes a job as a professor, and when they meet, she feels an inexplicable longing to be with him. Pedro is a Christian, but speaks out against the Inquisition. Meanwhile, Isabel becomes a spy against the Inquisition when Cardinal Ximenes, Inquisitor General, asks her to translate for his new polyglot Bible. Soon Pedro’s views and Isabel’s betrayal come to the attention of Cardinal Ximenes, who sends his lackeys after them. All they find is Isabel’s mother, as she is preparing her husband’s body for burial in the Jewish way. Isabel helps Pedro to escape Spain, and despite her need for him, she stays long enough to see her mother burn for heresy.
This story takes us from Spain to Portugal and even to Brazil. It is full of high drama and fear, however, with a lack of imagery, I felt as though this story could have taken place in 1510 or 1890. The reader is fully aware of the emotions of the characters, but without the imagery, and without much contemporary language, I had a hard time engaging with the characters and their journey.
There were some misprints in the book that I might have expected if it were an Advanced Readers Copy, but not in a published work. However, the book itself is beautiful with a glossy green cover and ornate filigree cross. It looks great on the shelf, but the story could have used a little more development, and I questioned the freedom Isabel would have had as a Jewish woman in 16th-century Spain.