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The Last Song by Eva Wiseman

The Last Song

by Eva Wiseman

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This ended up being a sweet little story, not something I ever thought I would say about a book that claims to be about the Spanish Inquisition. Rather than focusing on the horrors of the time period, Wiseman focuses on how Isabel, who was raised Catholic, comes to terms with the fact that her parents have been lying to her all along and she is actually Jewish. Her acceptance of herself and the Jewish community really is the driving force of the novel. In the course of her explorations, she meets Yonah, a boy her age who has grown up in the Jewish ghetto. The Last Song really is a book about finding out who you are with a cute little romance thrown in. The fear of the Spanish Inquisition a dull hum in the background. ( )
  lawral | Jun 20, 2014 |
See the full review on Short & Sweet Reviews.

Much of the book seemed flat to me. While the narration was often vivid and did well at setting the scene, the dialogue frequently felt stilted and unbelievable, even taking into account the fact that the story takes place hundreds of years in the past. Many of the characters are very one-note and can be summed up very simply and see little development throughout the story. They never really rise up to be more complex or have less of a caricature sort of portrayal. Isabel is the daughter of a privileged family, Yonah is a charming boy who changes Isabel's mind about Jewish people, and so on. Except for a few moments, the characters show little depth. Characters have changes of heart about very important topics almost at the drop of a hat. Isabel grew up believing that Jewish people were to be despised, but within days of learning that her family has Jewish roots, is breaking all sorts of rules to learn more about her newly adopted faith. There are very few moments examining Isabel's inner conflict over the secrets she learned about her family. I found many of Isabel's actions to be highly unbelievable -- even though she's a teenager and therefore probably prone to being more impulsive, she makes decisions that could be life-or-death for her family, with very little thought to the consequences. ( )
  goorgoahead | Dec 4, 2013 |
An engrossing story set in late 15th century Toledo during the Spanish Inquisition. The author does a fine job with historical detail creating a vivid sense of time and place, but the characters could have used a bit more depth and the plot was often predictable. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Isabel dislikes her intended husband, but her parents hope to protect her from the dangers of the Inquisition by marrying her off to the scion of an important Catholic family. As Isabel discovers her Jewish roots, she fights to save her family in this historical fiction. ( )
  STBA | Mar 20, 2013 |
When I first came upon Eva Wiseman's novel about 15th century Spain, it sounded like it had everything going for it: an intrepid and conflicted main character, an infamous villain for the ages, an often-ignored but compelling event in history - until I opened the first chapter. What this ended up as was rather superficial story that is too short and too undeveloped to carry any kind of depth or real feeling. I was quickly disillusioned with what was in store for me in this very short young-adult historical novel because my expectations were severely let down by obvious and predictable plotting, little-to-no-characterization and inconsistencies. The Last Song tells the story of fourteen-year-old Isabel, and her family of Converso Catholics in the middle of the Inquistion of Torquemada, and was one I felt rather lukewarm about while reading.

Though this is a novel that cameos visits and appearances from actual historical personages (Ferdinand & Isabel, Torquemada, Isaac Abravanel) in addition to its cast of imaginary people, none of them have life. Torquemada is the architect of all the strife in the book but he is neither distinctive, compelling or charismatic as a villain. Much like Isabel's mother/Isabel's father/Isabel's love interest Yonah (seeing a pattern yet?), he is simply there, wooden and undeveloped. I also had issues with Caterina and Isabel after their husband/father is taken away twice by the holy Inquisition - this will get a bit spoilery so be warned! The family has had a plan in store for SEVENTY PAGES, one prepared for this exact event, and it has to happen twice with weeks before they use their "failproof" plan. I was so frustrated by this obvious cluelessness on behalf of the women that I saw it as a cheap method used to drive the plot forward. Seriously, how do two scared women fighting for their lives and family forget their "Get Out of Torture Free" card/letter?

The plot follows a fairly totally predictable route from the beginning on and never diverges into something greater, more original. Isabel's struggles and problems are no more unique than a thousand historical fiction YA heroines betrothed to someone they loathe with feelings for another, impossible match. It's hard to review a character with so little to recommend or distinguish her, because like I said earlier, Isabel was there. She was serviceable, she did what was required of her for the plot advancement and nothing more. If you erase "Isabel"'s name and input "Luis" "Caterina" or any other, the result would be the same: they played their defined roles and nothing less.

All that aside, I really do like the cover. It does a nice job of hinting at the blood and pain that accompany Torquemada and his familiars wherever they go. ( )
  msjessie | Feb 5, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0887769799, Hardcover)

Spain had been one of the world’s most tolerant societies for eight hundred years, but that way of life was wiped out by the Inquisition. Isabel’s family feels safe from the terrors, torture, and burnings. After all, her father is a respected physician in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Isabel was raised as a Catholic and doesn’t know that her family’s Jewish roots may be a death sentence. When her father is arrested by Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, she makes a desperate plan to save his life – and her own.
Once again, master storyteller Eva Wiseman brings history to life in this riveting and tragic novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:36 -0400)

When the tolerant culture of Spain is shattered by the Inquisition, Isabel feels safe because of her Catholic upbringing and father's position as a respected doctor, until he is arrested for the family's secret Jewish heritage.

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