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By Isabel Allende

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By Isabel Allende
Translated from Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden
Charnwood Large Print, 2006
ISBN: 1-84617-114-8
Genre: Adventure, Suspense

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - March 20, 2006

Zorro is a swashbuckling adventure story by Isabel Allende that tells the story of Diego de La Vega, the child of a Spanish officer and Toypurnia, a half-breed warrior woman from the Gabrieleno Tribe. His father's rank gave him access to Spanish society, but his maternal heritage enables him to clearly see the injustices constantly being done to the Native peoples by the European invaders, and by the Spanish elite's contempt for all members of the lower classes, be they Spanish born or not. Born in California in 1795 when the region was still under Spanish control, Diego is a member of the ruling elite, although his best friend and side-kick Bernardo is a member of the lower class. As a teenager, Diego is sent to Barcelona to finish his education, and it is there that his sense of outrage at the injustices that he sees around him, soon brings him to the attention of La Justicia, a secret society intent upon rectifying injustice wherever they find it.

A natural born swordsman, Diego is recruited into the La Justicia, and soon perfects both his fighting skills and his persona as Zorro - a masked, freedom fighter. His exploits eventually propel him to return to California, where he sets out to reclaim his ancestral home - a task that cannot be accomplished without a battle. Helping Diego, is his life long friend, Bernardo, who not only helps Diego maintain his secret identity as Zorro, but who also aids Diego in all aspects of his life.

Allende's Zorro is adapted from the 'classic' Zorro stories by Johnston McCulley. Unlike these earlier versions which were more focused on Zorro battling the forces of evil and engaging in sword fights at every turn, Allende's Zorro is more a story about Diego, his personal history, and the forces that helped him to development his freedom fighting alter ego. While there are several exciting duels and sword fights, they merely serve as a backdrop for the more personal account of this fictional hero. This is a fascinating book to read, and one that touches upon an often overlooked aspect of the Zorro story - namely his childhood and early adulthood and the factors that turned a young Spanish nobleman into the legendary Zorro.

Zorro can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of Charnwood Large Print.

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