Acts of Dreams: Part 3 of The Inquisition Trilogy

Written by Martin Elsant
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Maria and Will Ames return to England after abandoning their dreams of building a Jewish refuge for victims of the Inquisition in 1572. They are soon charged as illegal residents and risk being stripped of all their holdings and expelled because Jews are not allowed to live in England, particularly if they openly practice their faith. Attorney Robert Shaw agrees to defend them in the Court of the Star Chamber, and in the process challenge the legal basis for banning Jews—the Edict of Expulsion of 1290.

Acts of Dreams follows Acts of Faith and Acts of Hope, both released in 2020. The series is based on research by author Elsant, a retired diagnostic radiologist, after reading Miriam Bodian’s Dying in the Law of Moses and her discussion of original 16th-century Inquisition transcripts.

The story brings Shaw into the courtroom to argue against prosecutor Nicholas Barham before Lord Chancellor Christopher Hatton. Barham is known for prosecuting Thomas Howard with Mary, Queen of Scots, for treason against Queen Elizabeth. Hatton has a reputation for presiding with fairness and good judgment despite an overall lack of knowledge about the law and questions as to whether he ever was actually called to the bar.

Acts of Dreams vividly portrays historical figures and the times, moving from masque dances in Queen Elizabeth’s court to Francis Drake’s voyages and Walter Raleigh’s New World explorations, and offers compelling courtroom drama. Its strength lies in its depictions of individuals who struggle with religious intolerance and the myths and outright lies that undergird it. A fascinating story, well told.