The Heretic
Lewis Weinstein
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Buy *The Heretic* by Lewis Weinstein online

The Heretic
Lewis Weinstein
Terrace Books
392 pages
March 2003
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Weinstein sets his dramatic novel in the bloody upheaval of the Spanish Inquisition. The great Dominican purges of 1391 and 1412 have created a large number of conversos, those willing to relinquish their faith and embrace Christianity rather than be burned at the stake as heretics.

After centuries of war with the Moors, Christianity is in its ascendancy, the Church brutal in its treatment of those under suspicion, the finger of doubt enough to send a man to the inquisitor’s torture chambers. Repeatedly the “conversos” are tormented by angry mobs of “old Christians.” The old Christians accuse the reformed Jews of secretly practicing the old religion, flouting the law of the land and the Holy Mother Church.

A successful goldsmith in Seville and a secret follower of the old ways, Gabriel Catalan has been conspiring with others to print copies of important Hebrew texts by means of Gutenberg’s revolutionary printing techniques and in collusion with Moorish royalty. Although the majority of the originals have been destroyed, Catalan is able to print many copies but must invoke the aid of his son, Tomas, to hide the texts from the Christians.

Gabriel aids a local family currently under suspicion as they quietly remove their belongings to a small village, where they will be safe from the daily violence and unprovoked attacks that have become endemic in Seville. Tomas travels with these conversos to their new home and falls in love with the daughter along the way, the whole family intent on seeking a safer life far from Spain, unaware that they are followed from Seville.

Meanwhile, the Catalan family is marked, unable to escape the aggressive principal arm of the Inquisition in Seville, Friar Ricardo Perez. The Inquisitor is the genius behind a trap that is slowly closing on the unsuspecting if careful Gabriel, a trap that will deliver Gabriel to the stake along with his devoted wife, Pilar.

As the principal characters attempt to leave behind a legacy for those who follow, the region is in chaos. The Moors divided, Christian Isabel seizes her opportunity to capture the Spanish throne and marry Ferdinand of Portugal. Their mission is to restore the grandeur of Christianity and subdue the unbelievers by any means necessary, the Inquisition a devastating tool in the success of their enterprise.

Seville in turmoil, suspicion and betrayal everywhere, the infamous Tourquemada joins Perez in pursuit of the Catalan family. Convicted by the messengers of God, the family is tied together and surrounded by burning stakes, yet another pyrrhic victory.

Weinstein reveals the ugly face of intolerance, fanatics demanding blood sacrifice in one of the most brutal periods of history, Jews and conversos scattering before the sword of Christianity. One great religion pitted against another, God watches His children destroyed in His name.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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