From Publishers Weekly
Medieval Spain's caste system can't keep a good man down in this absorbing epic, a Spanish-language bestseller. Arnau Estanyol, son of a fugitive peasant, starts out in 14th-century Barcelona as a lowly porter who carries stone blocks to a cathedral construction site and ends up a rich moneylender who saves the city from pillaging and frees the serfs of a barony he acquires by marriage. Alas, his dizzying social assent and defiance of the feudal order provoke enraged aristocrats—his status-obsessed wife included—into siccing the Inquisition on him. Arnau is a kindhearted, somewhat passive figure who combines piety, industry and cosmopolitanism to challenge a corrupt, dogmatic church and a parasitic nobility. The plot features thwarted romance, war, plague, immolations and self-immolations, set in a Machiavellian world ruled by privilege, cronyism and brute force. The melodrama is sometimes laid on thick, but Falcones's rich portrait of medieval society is fascinating. (Apr.)
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"Sculpted and fluid... the international bestseller appears now in an impressively graceful translation which captures beautifully the archaic and lyrical tone of the narrative... Its beauty lies in its vivd exposition of the complexities of a bygone society" Independent on Sunday "Falcones's intricately plotted novel rests on meticulous research... the ambitious yarn binds you into its thrall - a bold work of imagination, which pays homage to lives gone by as well as to the great church itself" Daily Express "Turns on legal and financial manoeuvres rarely found in a historical novel. Passionate in explaning 14th century Barcelona, [Falcones] draws convincing pictures of its architecture and culture, right down to the basics such as the sewage stream... an exciting, very readable adventure novel, enriched by realistic descriptions of medieval life, work, finance and politics" Independent "A powerful historical saga set in 14th century Barcelona that spans slavery, serfdom and anti-Semitism, friendship and thwarted love" Choice (Book of the Month)
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