Manuel, an 11-year-old boy, and his family fled to Spain from Portugal to escape the Inquisition as conversos. Manuel tries to guard his family’s secret, but finds it increasingly difficult as he is recruited by a gang to spy on his next door neighbor. Manuel is attracted to the girl who lives next door even before he finds out that she is also a converso. Manuel’s father is a doctor who saves many people in Seville when the Black Death strikes, but he and his family are still accused of being secret Jews.
This suspenseful novel gives a gritty look at life in Spain during the Inquisition. The author graphically describes an auto-de- fe where Violante’s (Manuel’s neighbor) brother-in-law is first tortured and then burned at the stake for practicing Judaism. The action is non-stop and the suspense builds throughout the book as Manuel narrowly escapes discovery time after time.
Despite the exciting plot, the story is unevenly translated with several awkward sentences and too liberal use of rhetorical questions. The explicit violence, although an accurate portrayal of a difficult time, makes this book suitable only for older children. Ages 13 – 15.