The Original Masked Superhero by Isabel Allende. Review by R.S. Gibson
This fine novel by the Chilean author Isabel Allende covers the formative years of Diego De La Vega. It tells of his growth from childhood to a young man and how the original masked avenger Zorro came to be. A journey of discovery takes our hero from California to the shores of Europe at the height of the Napoleonic wars and back again via a pirate stronghold in the Louisiana swamps.
In these pages we meet the people who have a hand in forming De La Vega's personality and ideals, his father the haughty but impoverished hidalgo Alejandro De la Vega who finds fortune in the New World, his grandmother White Owl, an Indian shaman and his mother Regina an Indian warrior woman. Also present in these pages are Bernardo, Diego's blood brother and a calming influence to the young hot head, the De Romeu sisters, Padre Mendoza and the pirate Jean Lafayette among others. Taking centre stage (as he should) is Diego De La Vega; swordsman, trickster, magician, charmer, spendthrift and idealist instinctively devoted to the cause of protecting the weak and serving justice from childhood, he really is a large than life figure and yet remains completely believable.
This novel takes the form of a memoir of Zorro's youth written by a close associate of the hero. The tone taken by our narrator is affectionate and slightly exasperated. The book was a delight to read full of amusing scenes and quotations. As the young hero grows into his role we come across injustices and cruelty which even he can't prevent. Zorro's angry response and determination to try harder to do what he can is very moving.
All the things one expects in a Zorro story are present and correct; disguises and trickery, swashbuckling acrobatics and daring-do. This is a really good book with several strong female characters who have an important part in guiding the young caballero to his destiny.
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R.S. Gibson works by day to support himself and his growing book collection. By night he dreams of a career in comics. He is a long time fan of alternative reality fiction.