Where I Got It: paperbackswap.com
Who I Recommend This To: Those into adventure, historical fiction, strong female characters.
Narrator: Blair Brown
Publisher: Harper Audio (2006)
Isabel Allende gave the world a wonderful origin story for the legend of Zorro. Yes, I grew up with the black and white TV show and have enjoyed the various movies. But this story was the first tale that gave Zorro true seriousness. This tale opens in the 1790s with the meeting of Diego de la Vega’s parents, Alejandro de la Vega and Toypurnia (a warrior for one of the local Native American tribes). Toypurnia is injured in an attack on Padre Mendoza’s mission and while recuperating, Alejandro befriends her. Toypurnia becomes a lady in waiting to a family friend of the de la Vegas and is renamed Regina. Shortly thereafter, Alejandro proposes marriage.
This riveting tale continues on from there with the birth of Diego and his antics as a boy. His milk brother (so called because they were both breast fed by the same woman) Bernado, a full blooded Native American, was born in the same week. An antic with a bear particularly stood out for me. The book then takes a more serious turn when pirates attack this California coastal village, leaving a few dead and many scarred for life. As Diego and Bernado become young men, they have an opportunity to go off to Catalan-speaking Spain to allow Diego to polish off his schooling. The antics continue, including performance in a gypsy circus, sword-training by a master of a secret society, and young love. While I won’t spoil anymore of the plot line, just know there are plenty more surprises in store in this book as Diego and Bernado make their way back to California.
Blair Brown had a lovely voice for this novel, as the book is written from the viewpoint of a female chronicler. Her Spanish accent was decent, pronouncing the various difficult names quite well. She had a range of voices for Diego as he aged and also pulled off different yet related voices for a pair of sisters.
What I Liked: Great origin story; lots of adventure; captures the prejudice of the time without condoning it; pirates; gypsies; awkward romantic situations.
What I Disliked: I would love for Isabel Allende to write a sequel some day.