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City of Liars

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

In 1487, the Inquisition establishes a new tribunal in Barcelona. Young navigator Joachim Déulocresca carries the weight of his father’s sins. Determined to honor his family name and rise above his shameful origins, he risks everything to smuggle sacred Jewish ritual items under the persecutor’s nose. But when a kindly patriarch who loves him like a son is burned at the stake for heresy, it compels Joachim to ply his talent for deception to mount an underground rescue mission smuggling Inquisition targets to safety by sea. Catholic heiress Aularia Bautista wants for nothing. Sheltered from the harsh reality of the world, she’s horrified after witnessing a social rival brutally flogged and burned at the stake for her faith. Plagued with guilt, she vows to take action, and secretly joins forces with a handsome smuggler with plans to save those in the Church’s crosshairs. As Joachim works with Aularia to help fugitives escape Spain, he finds himself falling hard for the driven beauty. And when Aularia discovers her parents’ crypto-Jewish heritage and her own precarious future, she’s terrified their unlawful love will put them both in mortal peril.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot/Idea: City of Liars is a dark romance, set during a painful time in history that led to countless deaths, paranoia, and secrecy. Focused on anti-Semitism at the hands of the Inquisition in Barcelona, Fogle's book explores the desolate fear experienced by those threatened by the church, and what they had to do in order to survive.

Prose: Fogle's writing is gritty and dark, with highlights of beauty and nuance. She is able to place the reader into the setting, no matter how grotesque the subject material. Her descriptions of people are on point as well, writing them so that they emanate their character and values through their physical appearances, words, and actions.

Originality: Fogle has placed a spotlight on a piece of history, and has given the reader a very sympathetic love story to experience in the midst of the chaos of killings at the hands of the church.

Character Development/Execution: Fogle writes her characters well, humanizing their attributes and experiences while she gives the reader a glimpse into their psyches, even if brief.

Date Submitted: April 11, 2022

Reviews
In her accomplished literary debut, psychotherapist turned novelist Fogle masterfully explores the Spanish Inquisition and the barbaric behavior perpetrated by those ostensibly doing the work of their Lord. In 1487, during the throes of the Spanish Inquisition, Jews are denounced as heretics by the Catholic Church and burned at the stake. Jewish navigator Joachim Déulocresca is doing his best to help them escape when he meets Catholic heiress Aularia Bautista during a public trial and execution of Barcelona’s Jewish citizens. Soon, privileged Aularia (who inadvertently fed incriminating information to a corrupt priest) is working with Joachim in his efforts to ferry the damned to safety. But in so doing, both could lose their own lives—and Aularia’s parents are hiding a bombshell secret that could prove deadly for them all.

Vivid with immersive historic detail, plotted with memorable twists and turns, and told in arresting, irresistible prose (“My priest and teacher is an assassin and seducer”), Fogle’s expertly wrought tale will entrance readers of historical fiction and anyone interested in stories of lovers swept up in times of terror. Looming over Joachim and Aularia’s budding romance is the barbarity of the Spanish Inquisition (Fogle doesn’t skimp on details of the more disturbing aspects, including torture), and readers will root for a happy ending as the pair face potential tragedy. Danger abounds, friends and foes alike will fall, and hearts will break, though Joachim and Aularia passionately believe in their ability to affect change. In Fogle’s hands their plight is gripping and emotionally resonant.

The author’s background as a psychotherapist contributes to her masterful handling of characters, both their actions and their inner lives, and she brings clear-eyed life to her milieu, capturing 15th century Barcelona in descriptive prose steeped in impeccable research. This story of tyranny and love will keep its audience turning the pages–and unlikely to forget its ending.

Takeaway: Fogle’s clear-eyed narrative about the barbarity of the Spanish Inquisition brings history to glorious life.

Great for fans of: Alice Hoffman’s Incantation, Mitchell James Kaplan’s By Fire, By Water.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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