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The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez (The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez) (Volume 1) Paperback – March 29, 2014
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There is so much intrigue going on in this book...but that is one of the best things about it. You can tell that Ann Swinfen has put a lot of research into what went on during this time period weaving it into a story that is equal parts fiction to the historical events of the era. The world is rich and the characters, especially Christoval, have so many layers it keeps your attention from the first page to the last. If you want a book full of history, adventure and turns to keep you interested, this is for you. I can't wait to read more from this author.
-Reviewed By Readers' Favorite
About the Author
Ann Swinfen spent her childhood partly in England and partly on the east coast of America. She read Classics and Mathematics at Oxford, where she married a fellow undergraduate, the historian David Swinfen. While bringing up their five children and studying for an MSc in Mathematics and a BA and PhD in English Literature, she had a variety of jobs, including university lecturer, translator, freelance journalist and software designer. She served for nine years on the governing council of the Open University and for five years worked as a manager and editor in the technical author division of an international computer company, but gave up her full-time job to concentrate on her writing, while continuing part-time university teaching. In 1995 she founded Dundee Book Events, a voluntary organisation promoting books and authors to the general public. Her first three novels, The Anniversary, The Travellers, and A Running Tide, all with a contemporary setting but also historical resonance, were published by Random House, with translations into Dutch and German. Her fourth novel, The Testament of Mariam, marked something of a departure. Set in the first century, it recounts, from an unusual perspective, one of the most famous and yet ambiguous stories in human history. At the same time it explores life under a foreign occupying force, in lands still torn by conflict to this day. Her latest novel, Flood, is set in the fenlands of East Anglia during the seventeenth century, where the local people fight desperately to save their land from greedy and unscrupulous speculators. The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez is the first book in a series featuring Kit Alvarez and Walsingham’s secret service. She now lives on the northeast coast of Scotland, with her husband (formerly vice-principal of the University of Dundee), a cocker spaniel and two Maine Coon cats. www.annswinfen.com
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Top Customer Reviews
Christoval's abilities give him the background he needs to decipher the coded messages, and his past experience of the Spanish invasion of Portugal—during which he lost his mother and siblings—ensures that he has motivation to help. He agrees, even though the work takes him away from the hospital.
Besides, Christoval has a deeper secret, known to a man he distrusts, that prevents him from refusing Walsingham's demands, no matter the threat they pose to health, life, or happiness.
A thoroughly enjoyable series, with a compelling main character of surprising complexity, given that Christoval is only sixteen at the beginning of the book. And some of the writing is just beautiful, as in this passage from chapter 3:
“From where I was sitting I could see my grandfather’s prize stallion down in the water meadow below. He was a creature of air and fire, of Arab breeding, scarcely seeming to touch the ground when he flew across the meadow in the sheer joy of living. But he was still now, his head up and his ears pricked forward as if he were listening to something only he could hear. His off fore was lifted slightly, with the tip of the hoof just brushing the ground. I fixed my eyes on him, his solid muscles shivering slightly under the gleaming chestnut coat, the whole, ecstatic shape of him outlined against the soft green of the meadow.”
I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
Full disclosure: I interviewed the author for New Books in Historical Fiction and have developed a social-media-style friendship with her as a result, but I bought these books in the regular way, and the review (like all my reviews) expresses my honest opinion.
The book is very well researched and the author has limned her characters with lifelike skill. Her descriptions are beautifully poetic and evocative. I look forward to reading more of young Kit's adventures!