A swashbuckling adventure story that reveals for the first time how Diego de la Vega became the masked man we all know so well.
‘Until that moment Diego had not been conscious of his dual personality, one part Diego de la Vega, elegant, affected, hypochondriac, and the other part El Zorro, audacious, daring, playful.’
Born in southern California late in the 18th century, Diego de la Vega is a child of two worlds. His father is an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner; his mother, a Shoshone warrior. Diego learns from his maternal grandmother, White Owl, the ways of her tribe while receiving from his father lessons in the art of fencing and in cattle branding. It is here, during Diego’s childhood, filled with mischief and adventure, that he witnesses the brutal injustices dealt out to Native Americans by European settlers and first feels the inner conflict of his heritage.
At the age of sixteen, Diego is sent to Barcelona for a European education. In a country chafing under the corruption of Napoleonic rule, Diego follows the example of his celebrated fencing master and joins La Justicia, a secret underground resistance movement devoted to helping the powerless and the poor. With these tumultuous times as backdrop, Diego falls in love, saves the persecuted, and confronts for the first time a great rival who emerges from the world of privilege.
Between California and Barcelona, the New World and the Old, the persona of Zorro is formed, a great hero is born and the legend begins. After many adventures – duels at dawn, fierce battles with pirates at sea, and impossible rescues – Diego de la Vega, aka. Zorro, returns to America to reclaim the hacienda on which he was raised and to seek justice for all who cannot fight for it themselves.
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If admirers of the exquisitely talented novelist Isabel Allende had to pick the least likely subject for a novel by her, it would probably be the swashbuckling yarn Zorro. But that's exactly what Allende has tackled, and with her first adult novel since 2001ís Portrait in Sepia--and the result (against all the odds) is a conspicuous success.
It is, after all, something of a surprise that Allende proves herself so adept at a novel chronicling the adventures of this masked superhero figure of the old world. In such books as her signature novel The House of the Spirits, the author's territory has been the careful and insightful delineation of human character against richly atmospheric settings. Swashbuckling adventure has hardly been her metiér, but in some ways Zorro proves to be a more successful resurrection of the much-loved tale than the rather self-conscious Antonio Banderas movie incarnation.
Diego de la Vega is a man caught between two societies: he inherits his aristocratic background from his Spanish father, a high-ranking military officer who has become a landowner. His mother, however was a Shosone Indian, and it is from his Indian grandmother that he absorbs Indian ways, while achieving the unparalleled swordsmanship skills of his father. As his country suffers under the yoke of Napoleon's autocratic rule, Diego becomes a member of la Justicia, an underground movement dedicated to the overthrow of the tyrant. He then finds himself called upon to use his warrior skills to deliver those around him--and to confront a deadly rival.
Of necessity, the character drawing here has to be on a larger scale than we are used to from Allende, but she is still able to freight much of her subtle observation into the colourful canvas that is Zorro. Will her long-time admirers be able to accept such a radical change of pace from the author of The House of the Spirits? If they can't, they are doing themselves a disservice--and those addicted to novels of high adventure can add a new title to their lists.--Barry ForshawReview:
‘Beautiful and disturbing and profound…told in Allende’s characteristically dizzying style.’ Guardian
‘Heroism doesn’t come more mysterious or more dashing…Pacy and atmospheric, this is a tale of love, rivalry and the pursuit of justice.’ Mail on Sunday
‘The swashbuckling Zorro takes on new life in Allende’s saga…never less than entertaining.’ Sunday Times
‘Isabel Allende leaves few swashes unbuckled as she gives Diego’s saga a smooth, limpid flow. Highly entertaining.’ Independent
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