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Prisoner of the Inquisition [Hardcover]

Theresa Breslin
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 2010

Zarita, only daughter of the town magistrate, lives a life of wealth and privilege. Indulged by her parents, she is free to spend her days as she pleases, enjoying herself in the company of an eligible young nobleman, horse riding, or leisurely studying the arts.

Saulo, son of a family reduced by circumstances to begging, witnesses his father wrongfully arrested and dealt with in the most horrifying way. Hauled off to be a slave at sea and pursued by pirates he encounters the ambitious mariner explorer, Christopher Columbus. Throughout his hardships Saulo is determined to survive - for he has sworn vengeance on the magistrate and his family.

As Zarita's life also undergoes harsh changes the formidable and frightening Inquisition arrives in the area, bringing menacing shadows of suspicion with acts of cruel brutality - and ultimately, amid the intrigues of the court of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in the splendid Moorish city of Grenada, betrayal and revenge...

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Childrens (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385617038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385617031
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 459,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Her themes of religion, sacrifice, betrayal and revenge might me tought for the average 12-year-old to digest but she presents them simply through her two young narrators." (Leader (Chester))

"(Theresa Breslin) tackles the art of historical storytelling for children in this novel set in Spain in the 1400s." (Norwich Evening News)

"Breslin's ability to weave a well-researched, page turning plot around sympathetic, believable characters has been displayed before in The Medici Seal and The Nostradamus's unputdownable" (Amanda Craig The Times)


Don't read this book if you are of a delicate disposition and prone to nightmares. Within the first few pages a woman is burned at the stake, a man is unjustly accused and hanged, his young son only just escapes the same fate and a woman dies in childbirth. But this is no horror story, and none of the violence is gratuitous: this is quite simply the world of fifteenth century Spain. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are fighting the Moors in Granada, Christopher Columbus is seeking royal funding for a voyage to prove the world is round, and the Inquisition is spreading terror and anguish throughout the land. And against this background of momentous events, we have the thrilling and beautiful account of the lives of two young people, bound together by hatred and love.

.....the author never seeks cheap thrills, even when recounting the most horrible and bloodthirsty tortures of the Inquisition: her tale is simply and clearly told. At a time when the news frequently reminds us just how far people will go in the name of democracy and freedom, this book will make many readers think more carefully about what they believe. People may have hated and feared the Inquisition, and its barbaric practices may revolt us, but people in Catholic Spain in the fifteenth century were convinced what was done was for the good of all society, including the victims. Belief in the afterlife was common, and the severity of the punishment was intended to persuade heretics to repent at the moment of death and thus save their immortal souls. And, needless to say, witnessing this encouraged everyone else to remain on the path of virtue, and of obedience to the Church.

Many things are not what they first seem in this book. People act for selfish or twisted motives, or out of simple fear, and many townsfolk are denounced to the Inquisition, and horribly punished, with very little proof of wrong-doing. But the characters in this inspiring book are also capable of great sacrifices for love and for family, and what begins as a sordid, sad little event takes on enormous grandeur and significance. In such an atmosphere, and after such a story, a conventional 'happy-ever-after' ending is nigh on impossible, but readers will close the book with a sense of peace and reassurance that despite the worst things humanity can do, nobility and love will always endure.

" (Lina Lawlor The Book Bag

"Theresa Breslin is an enormously versatile novelist. Whispers in the Graveyard won the Carnegie Medal in 1994 and a particular favourite of mine, Divided City, is about the religious divisions in Glasgow seen through the story of two boys, one of whom supports Celtic and the other, Rangers. During the last few years, though, she's produced historical novels of a very high quality, like Remembrance, The Medici Seal and The Nostradamus Prophecy." (Adele Geras

Book Description

A gripping, dramatic adventure set during the Spanish Inquisition - a time of fire and fury when people turned traitor to save themselves.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical fiction for teens and up! 30 May 2011
By Michelle Moore TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Prisoner of the Inquisition appears to be aimed at the teen market, although there is plenty for older readers to enjoy too. It tells the story of Zarita, the daughter of the town magistrate, and Saulo, the son of a beggar. After being thrown together at the beginning of the story, they follow their own paths before meeting again.

Saulo is taken to be a slave at sea, and during this time we see his character shaped by the events which happen to him, and the people he meets - including Christopher Columbus. Meanwhile, Zarita experiences the Inquisition in her town, something which the author describes vividly.

At the base of this tale is a love story, but it's surrounded by the historical events and issues. The length and pacing of the book are both good, and should appeal to teens with limited time. Other historical novels I've read and seen seem to be fairly long, where this is a more average length. It's also very gripping, and difficult to put down. It should provide a good introduction to historical fiction, whilst also sparking an interest in further research about the facts and time-period described.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling historical adventure 6 May 2011
I am not surprised that this book has been shortlisted for the Carnegie Award this year. It is an engrossing historical yarn set in late fifteenth-century Spain, the era of Christopher Columbus and New World exploration but also of the Spanish Inquisition. The story has two strands which intertwine at the beginning and end of the novel. The author has done her research very well, but doesn't allow this to get in the way of a thrillingly emotional plot.
Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quality writing for teenagers and adults 19 Dec 2011
By Charlie
I'm a male teacher in my fifties. I read this book because my school librarian asked the teachers to read and review some teenage fiction, to encourage the pupils to do the same. So I approached the book a little grudgingly - as a task to complete before I could get on with my own reading in the Christmas holidays. Yet I was quickly gripped by the plot and the characters. It helped that it was set in Andalucia, an area for which I have a growing fascination. The book's main asset is the efficiency with which the author tells her story. No words are wasted as she tells the stories of Saulo and Zelita, using an alternating first-person narrative. They are both flawed characters who develop from childhood to adulthood in the space of just over 300 pages. The supporting characters - pirates,nuns and priests- are well drawn and real historical figures, such as Christopher Columbus and Tomas de Torquemada, play convincing roles in the fiction.
I recaptured some of the simple joy I experienced reading stories as a teenager. Is it useful to classify this as "teenage fiction".If it encourages teenagers to read it, yes. If it deters older readers, no. It certainly escapes classification as "girl" or "boy" fiction. I shall recommend it to my 15 year old son and - as required, but with conviction - to the girls at school.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prisoner of the Inquisition 9 May 2011
By Thomas
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Prisnor of the Inquisition. It was fast moving and clever. I became very absorbed in the plot which seemed to have some historic value thrown in for good measure. Very enjoyable.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EPIC READ! 19 May 2011
I took this book out from the Library - stayed up VERY late reading it because it was so amazing. I have now bought it and its become my favourite book!
I love how there are two main charecters and they both give their points of veiw of what is happening in their lives going to and fro in chapters. It keeps the story really interesting. It was amazing how there was a link from the beginning and when finding each other and falling in love was gorgeously beautiful <3, but at the same time this book wasn't a soppy fairytale and had many twists making it a fabulous novel!
RECCOMEND TO EVERYBODY! (mostly teens like me) Enjoy - you'll love it! :) xx
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping! 3 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a well written novel that gripped me from start to finish. It's essentially a love story, but set in the gruesome times of the Spanish Inquisition it sometimes makes for disturbing reading, however the twists and turns that draw the characters in to each others lives, for better or worse, make it compelling. The historical context is very important for the plot, so we're spoon fed enough details for the benefit of those who have little knowledge of this period, but without feeling like we're being lectured.

I really hope there's a sequel.....I don't think I'll be alone in wanting revenge on certain characters, and seeing how the main relationship moves on as they had such little time together.
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