It is 1492, a tumultuous time in Spanish history. 14-year-old Maria Sanchez is newly orphaned, and her only living relative is a sea-captain uncle she has not seen she was small. Frightened and having nowhere else to go, she turns to the Catholic Church for assistance. Fra Adolfo finds her a position as a servant in the home of the Delgado family, but he has an ulterior motive: the Delgados are conversos, Jews who adopted Christianity rather than be expelled from Spain, and the priest is suspicious that they may be practicing Judaism in secret. Maria agrees to spy on the family in return for a place to live, and out of fear of the fate of those who shield Jews and revulsion for practitioners of the "heretical" faith. When Maria reports what she observes, and Dr. Delgado is taken away for interrogation, she begins to feel remorse for the devastation her action has brought on those who have acted toward her with nothing but kindness. The teen, awakened to the injustice of the Inquisition, takes a courageous step to right the wrong she helped perpetuate.
Maria is a sympathetic heroine and, while several other characters may be a bit one-dimensional, the reader gains insight into the plight and fear of those living in this dangerous era. Historical details paint a vivid picture of life in late-fifteenth-century Spain. 182 pages. Ages 12-15
Recommended by Barbara Karp, Librarian.