A fantastic adventure, a fun read, and a serious statement about the power of knowledge and truth

  • Book: Zahara and the Lost Books of Light
  • Location: Seattle, Spain
  • Author: Joyce Yarrow

Review Author: c130jj



It is rare when I run across a book of fiction with great entertainment value that also has the capacity to educate the reader in a significant way. I say “capacity to educate” because some may choose to forego learning and simply enjoy the wild ride. Zahara and The Lost Books of Light stands out in this respect, however, as the author pens her chapters in a way that reminds us of the themes of social responsibility, peace, and acceptance in a way that is unavoidable and still somehow, non-repetitive.

I was completely unaware of the Sephardic Jewish community as I began reading, and promptly put the book down to find out more about them. It turns out that with the Alhambra Decree of 1492, 3.5 million Jews were expelled from Spain. It wasn’t until 1968 that the edict was formally revoked, and not until 2015 until the Spanish government allowed descendants of Sephardic Jews to return to Spain with full citizenship. Most people are at least generally familiar with the Spanish Inquisition, but how much do we know about what actually happened? Beyond the lives lost and families destroyed, how much theology, philosophy, art, poetry, how much science was lost? What is the impact 500 years later? Zahara and The Lost Books of Light begins to answer this in a believable, magical way where hesitant Sephardic Jew Alienor Crespo, a modern-day journalist from Seattle, has the capacity to travel backwards in time. With the gift of second sight she learns more about how she might shape a potential future where some of what was thought to be lost might not just be saved, but shared with the world as originally intended.

Crespo returns to Spain and quickly becomes enmeshed in serious family affairs that are traced back to ancestors involved with saving and hiding an unimaginable treasure of books in tunnels beneath an Andalusian village. As she becomes more embroiled in the dangers surrounding the safety and protection of the secret library the question arises whether it would be better to continue to keep it hidden or acknowledge it to the world.

A fantastic adventure and a fun read. Beyond that, and perhaps more important, Yarrow’s book is a serious statement about the power of knowledge and truth, and an excellent example of how humanity as a whole has the capacity to be far greater than the sum of its disparate parts.

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