Saturday, May 10, 2014

Guardian of the Dawn, by Richard Zimler

Richard Zimler. Guardian of the Dawn. New York: Delta Trade Paperbacks/Bantam Dell/Random House, 2005. 403 pages. ISBN 9780385338813.

I remembered Zimler's The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon as a fascinating work of historical fiction, so when I came across Guardian of the Dawn I hoped for and expected a work of similar quality, and I wasn't disappointed.

Guardian of the Dawn tells the story of Tiago Zarco, a young man who has been imprisoned by the Inquisition in Portuguese India for being a relapsed Christian. In fact, Zarco had no idea that his grandfather had been forced to convert to Christianity, thereby making all of his descendants Christians in the eyes of the Portuguese religious authorities. The story begins with Tiago in prison, and is told through flashbacks that represent Tiago's search through his history trying to find out who might have betrayed his family. He considers the possibilities, including his aunt and uncle, who have converted to Catholicism; his adopted cousin Wadi whose motives he has long questioned; and his sister Sofia, who has fallen in love with Wadi.

I liked everything about this book, from the excellent writing to its depiction of the atrocious historical period that it describes in great detail. I found it impossible to put down as I followed Tiago's story through his interrogation, imprisonment, release, and then search for revenge. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

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