Popular Fiction Transformed to True Literary Art,
This review is from: Zorro: A Novel (Hardcover)
I can think of very few novels that teenage boys would like and that also have true literary merit: Twain's _Huckleberry Finn_, Salinger's _Catcher in the Rye_ and now Allende's _Zorro_. This novel touches on the timeless themes of race, class, and spirituality but all within a wonderful adventure story. In the same way that Beethoven and Handel would take drinking songs and other popular tunes and use them as the basis for hymns and symphonies, Allende has taken a story with characters and plot outlines already familiar to most readers from pulp novels, movies and TV shows and has turned it into a wonderful work of literary art.
In the course of the novel, we learn how Diego de la Vega took the name Zorro, where he learned swordsmanship and the the use of disguise, why his faithful friend Bernardo doesn't speak and why they both champion the poor and dispossessed. By giving motivation and context for Zorro's actions, he becomes a real human being not just a two-dimensional action hero. In my favorite passage from the book, after the evil Moncada attacked Bernardo without provocation, Diego challanged Moncada to a duel and asked his fencing instructor, Manuel Escalante, to serve as a second.
"A duel is a serious matter that concerns a gentleman's honor. It has a very strict etiquette and norms. A caballero does not fight a duel over a servant," said Manuel Escalante.
"Bernardo is my brother, maestro, not my servant. Bet even if he were, it isn't fair to mistreat someone who is unarmed."
"Not fair you say? Do you truly believe that life is fair, Senor de la Vega?"
"No, maestro, but I plan to do everything in my power to make it so," Diego replied.