cover image The Last Song

The Last Song

Eva Wiseman. Tundra, $17.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-88776-979-5

Set during the turbulent Spanish Inquisition in the multicultural city of Toledo, this historical novel follows teenage Isabel as she uncovers long-held family secrets that both terrify and liberate. Although raised as a devout Catholic in a wealthy household with Muslim slaves, Isabel’s exposure to the torture and humiliation of heretics raises her awareness of her own family’s idiosyncrasies, such as Friday candle-lighting and the absence of pork from their menu. Isabel claims her hidden Jewish heritage just as the cultural climate becomes increasingly dangerous for Jews. Wiseman (Puppet) adeptly portrays the threatening atmosphere of fear and prejudice that compels citizens into distasteful choices: Isabel’s forced betrothal, for safety’s sake, to a Catholic man she despises; old friends refusing her desperate family’s entreaties for help once their heritage is known. Isabel’s rapid transformation from one who feels peace when addressing “our savior’s mother,” to secret student of Torah, combined with her unsurprising preference for a kind Jewish boy over her odious fiancé, lessen the story’s dramatic tension. However, the themes of exodus and perseverance despite adversity are uplifting. Ages 11–up. (Apr.)