Published: 03 May 2005
Publisher: Harper Collins
Details: Hardcover, 400 pages
My Rating: 2/5
A swashbuckling adventure story that reveals for the first time how Diego de la Vega became the masked man we all know so well.
Born in southern California late in the eighteenth century, he is a child of two worlds. Diego de la Vega’s 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 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 this tumultuous period as a 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, a.k.a. 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.
I am a big fan of Isabel Allende and I have read and adored most of her books. This one however I found slightly disappointing and I’ll try to explain the reasons why.
Even though the story, as promised in the summary, delivered action, romance and vivid descriptions of an adventurous story set in the 17th century, the story never truly engaged me. Even as the ending drew closer, at 40 pages left, I had no problems letting go of the book for a day or two before continuing. Now that is not a good sign.
In order for me to get engaged with a book which essentially means rapidly turning pages is when I’m dying to know what is going to happen to the characters of the book. And here is where I found it lacking, the character development. Zorro in particular, being the main character, felt one-dimensional and as such never truly real. It was as if this character was drawn with broad brush strokes, his personality traits being brave, sly, loyal etc but all the smaller details being missed out. Without these details, which would have helped making the character more complex, thus real and human, I never found myself connected to Zorro. What I would have liked to have known was his thoughts and feelings throughout the book, any hesitations, fears, sorrows he might have felt during any of his many adventures.
As it was now, I never truly cared what was going to happen to him, or any other of the characters of the book. It is however an OK read, more so for the adventures they accounter along the way which will keep you enough interested to keep moving through the book, but it is certainly not a must-read.