Zahara and the Lost Books of Light
by Joyce Yarrow
Publication Date: December 13, 2020
Genre: Historical Fantasy
When Seattle journalist Alienor Crespo travels to Granada to apply for citizenship as a descendant of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, she uncovers her own family story, along with a hidden treasure trove of medieval Hebrew and Arabic books, saved from the fires of the Inquisition.
This “Library of Light” is being protected by a secretive group of literary caretakers. Alienor joins their struggle to safeguard the priceless manuscripts from discovery and destruction by a fanatical group devoted to restoring limpieza de sangre, purity of blood, to the Iberian Peninsula.
Crespo forms mystical bonds with her female ancestors, both Jewish and Muslim, who once faced the same dark forces aligned against her. What began as a routine, freelance assignment becomes front page news in Spain’s growing confrontation with its troubled past.
With a touch of magic realism honoring the mystics of Andalusia, as well as an emerging romance entangled in mystery, this fast-paced novel is rich with conflict and suspense.
Oh my goodness, Friends. Where does one begin, when one comes across such a nuanced novel?
Somehow, Ms. Joyce Yarrow managed to tell a story, create a plot, add in history, weave a little magic and build some memorable characters, all wrapped up in one brilliant book. Alienor Crespo gets the chance of a lifetime when she learns that the Spanish government is allowing citizenship for descendants of the Sephardim. (I am ashamed to say that I was not familiar with that term, and so immediately set out to educate myself. Turns out that in 1492, Spain expelled roughly 3 million Jews. It wasn’t until 2015 that Spain allowed descendants of the Sephardic Jews to have citizenship, once again.) (Sephardic Jew = Jews that lived in Spain and Portugal.) I found this bit of history fascinating and heartbreaking, and grew in admiration towards the author for taking on such an historical happening.
What makes this story even more of a treat is our main character, herself. As Alienor connects with her ancestors (I loved that part so much!) she begins to piece together not only her past, but who she is on a soul-level. Enter in Zahara (think the Atlantis of lost historical knowledge) and Alienor’s role in keeping it safe, and you have yourself a fast-paced, suspenseful and stunningly beautiful novel.
Dear Ms. Yarrow,
I now must own everything you ever write.
Bottom Line: Ever met a book that is “unputdownable?” Allow me to introduce you to Zahara and the Lost Books of Light.
About the Author
Joyce Yarrow is the author of literary novels of suspense that “appeal to readers who enjoy unusual stories with an international setting.” – Library Journal
Her latest offering is a historical fantasy – ZAHARA AND THE LOST BOOKS OF LIGHT – from Adelaide Books in Dec 2020.
A New York City transplant now living in Seattle, Joyce began her writing life scribbling poems on the subway and observing human behavior from every walk of life.
Her published novels include ASK THE DEAD (Martin Brown), RUSSIAN RECKONING – available in hardcover as THE LAST MATRYOSHKA (Five Star Mysteries), RIVERS RUN BACK, co-authored with Arindam Roy (Vitasta, New Delhi).
She is a Pushcart Prize Nominee with short stories and essays that have appeared in Inkwell Journal, Whistling Shade, Descant, Arabesques, and Weber: The Contemporary West and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Yarrow is a member of the Sisters in Crime organization and has presented workshops on “The Place of Place in Mystery Writing” at conferences in the US and India.
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