Set in 1490 Prisoner of the Inquisition tells the story of Zarita, the daughter of a rich magistrate and Saulo, the son of a beggar. Set in a time where anyone who opposes the Catholic Church (and even some who don't) will be tried for heresy and could end up burnt at the stake author Theresa Breslin has done a fantastic job of capturing the fear and confusion of the people who live in Zarita's home town. This is a story full of betrayal, hate and revenge but also of love and survival and I was captivated from the first page.
The story starts with Zarita visiting a church to pray for her mother who is going through a difficult child birth. When she is approached by a beggar she calls for help and the circumstances lead to the beggar being hanged by her father the magistrate. Saulo is the son of that beggar and when he tries to help his father he ends up being sent away to live on a slave ship, he blames Zarita's father for everything and is determined that one day he will return and take his revenge. While Saulo is learning to survive on the slave ship and plotting his return life isn't easy for Zarita. As the Spanish Inquisition sweeps through the town it brings terror in it's wake. People are so scared of being called a heretic that they will do anything to stay above suspicion, even reporting others for their supposed guilt creating an atmosphere full of distrust and torn loyalties.
The story is told in alternating chapters by Zarita and Saulo and I loved reading about both of their journeys. Both characters are well developed and go on a voyage of self discovery as they mature, they have each made mistakes along the way and have to find a way to deal with their guilt and grief. Alongside the character's emotional journeys the story gives a fascinating insight into life during the Spanish Inquisition. The torture of the accused is horrific to read about and gave me chills but I also enjoyed the more light hearted tale of Christopher Columbus as he tries to raise funds for his expedition across the ocean.
The Prisoner of the Inquisition is a beautifully written, wonderfully descriptive story and one I would highly recommend. It's the first book I've read by Theresa Breslin but it won't be the last and I'm looking forward to discovering her back list.