As the new year of 1481 emerges, Marisol Garcia’s life begins to rapidly change. The Inquisition is coming to Seville and, in an effort to protect her family, Marisol’s mother – a Christian conversa – commits suicide to avoid any further suspicion or danger to Marisol or her father. Marisol has long been ashamed of the Jewish blood she inherited from her mother, further complicated by the hideous treatment she has seen some Old Christian’s inflict on New Christians of Jewish descent. Only one boy from a well-connected Old Christian family, Antonio Vargas, has shown her the love and respect she longs for. But when Antonio goes off to school and stops writing to Marisol she begins to believe he has abandoned her and, after her mother’s death and at her father’s insistence, she marries Gabriel Hojeda, a civil lawyer working for the Inquisition that might be able to keep Marisol safe. This is no happy marriage, however, and her vows are only the beginning of what will become an unraveling nightmare for Marisol and everyone she loves.
As the story unfolds Marisol becomes an important pawn in the greedy political game that the Inquisition really is. From her brute of a husband to the sinister and seemingly soulless Grand Inquisitor Fray Torquemada to Queen Isabel herself, Marisol is pulled and manipulated until she isn’t sure who she can trust at all. By the final page many have been tormented, tortured and even burned as heretics but a tiny ray of hope emerges that there might be salvation for those that remain if they stay true to themselves and the beliefs that so many have tried to purge from them.
After finishing The Inquisitor’s Wife I’m torn as to whether I really enjoyed it or not. On the positive side, it was fascinating learning more about the hideous treatment inflicted on the conversos in Seville during the Inquisition and seeing the true motivations behind it. I’m always shocked to see how horrible people will act against those that don’t believe what they do and how greed, power and politics can turn people into true monsters. The author holds nothing back in showing the fierce manipulation and torture inflicted and this really helps the reader immerse themselves in this bleak world. The romance between Marisol and Antonio was also a little bit of sweetness in this otherwise incredibly dark story and helped keep me from feeling utterly depressed by all the horror surrounding their lives.
However, I found the story to be slow and plodding at times. For example, between the snippets of the unhappy wedding ceremony and Marisol’s memory flashes, it takes 60 pages for the wedding to end and the plot to move on. It ended up being a fast read but these slow moments did make me long for the more action packed portions that seemed to happen in the latter half of the book. The ending also left much to be desired as it seemed to cut off too quickly and with only a vague sense of resolution. I was left feeling like I wished the author put less effort into the slow moving beginning and relegated some of that energy to wrapping up the story.
While I can’t say The Inquisitor’s Wife is one of my favorites, it did keep me turning the pages to see how the story would unfold and I look forward to reading something else by Jeanne Kalogridis to get a better feel for her writing style. For any reader already a fan of the author or someone particularly interested in historical fiction based during the Spanish Inquisition this would probably be a worthwhile read. For others I might suggest starting with one of her other novels which readers seem to have really enjoyed, such as The Borgia Bride.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.