– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘The Heretic’s Daughter’ blogtour, organized by Random Things Tour.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
Michael writes historical fiction and won a prize for his debut novel, Blood Libel, at the 2020 Emirates Literature Festival. Sophie Hannah called it, ‘immensely gripping,’ and the Historical Novel Society said, ‘Lynes knows his history and tells the story with verve.’ He is an alumnus of the Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course.
The Isaac Alvarez Mysteries are set in turn of the 16th century Andalusia. A febrile time: the Catholic monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, had just ended the Moors’ 700-year domination of the region. Religious tensions between Catholics, Jews and Muslims are running high and the Inquisition is determined to drive out heresy. Isaac struggles with his religious identity whilst trying to protect his family and keep King Ferdinand happy.
Isaac’s first investigation was published in January 2021 . The second, The Heretic’s Daughter, was published in May 2022. He is hard at work on the third book in the series and planning the fourth. Michael is originally from London but currently lives in Dubai with his family.
Seville, 1498. As the Inquisition’s grip on Andalucia tightens, Isaac and Isabel are forced to choose between family and faith. Can their family survive the consequences?
Isaac seeks revenge on Torquemada for the murder of his wife and best friend. But he’s not the only one who wants The Grand Inquisitor dead. The King commands Isaac to investigate. If Isaac stops the assassination, he saves the man he hates. Fail and he loses the King’s protection: the only thing keeping a heretic like Isaac alive. After a perilous journey to Granada, he confronts both Torquemada and the truth about himself.
Conflicted by her father’s heresy and distressed by his quest for vengeance, Isabel sets out to discover the truth. Feeling abandoned by her father, the trail takes her to the darkest places in Seville. She is unnerved by a shocking revelation and a surprising discovery about her real feelings. Can Isabel use what she has unearthed to save her father and their family?
The first book in the Isaac Alvarez Mysteries, Blood Libel, won a prize at the 2020 Emirates Literature Festival.
Michael Lynes writes The Isaac Alvarez Mysteries under the pen name M Lynes. The first
book in the series, Blood Libel, won a prize at the 2020 Emirates Literature Festival and
was published in 2021. The second book, The Heretic’s Daughter, has just been published. He’s working on the third instalment which will be available in 2023.
Why did you decide to write about late-medieval Andalusia?
I’ve always been fascinated by periods of immense social and political change. And turn of the 16th century was an extremely turbulent time in Spain. I thought it was a very rich period to set a series of historical mysteries in. I was really drawn to the period after learning some of the human stories after a visit to Andalusia in 2013. I wanted to explore what that meant for a specific family, so I created the Alvarez family. Isaac, the father, is a lawyer working for King Ferdinand. He is a converso – a Jew forced to convert to Catholicism – the so called ‘True Faith’ of the time. But in his heart he remains a Jew. He is forced to become an investigator to protect both his faith and his family. His daughter, Isabel, is conflicted by her father’s heresy. The first book, Blood Libel, tells the story of the Alvarez family’s fight for survival focusing very much on Isaac’s point of view. The second book, The Heretic’s Daughter, which was recently published, continues the story in Granada and focuses more on Isabel’s view of events. There’s even a romantic sub-plot. I’ve been really pleased by the reviews for this so far.
Wasn’t this a very violent time? How do you capture the reader’s interest?
Some of the characters are blood-thirsty and cruel but there are also acts of great kindness and sacrifice. The reader spends time with each member of the Alvarez family getting to know them as individuals and, I hope, empathising with their situation. Their moral dilemmas are set in far more dangerous times than our own, but I think their concerns are universal and have contemporary resonance.
I tried hard not to make the two central antagonists in Blood Libel – Alonso and Torquemada – pantomime villains. I spent a lot of time in their heads looking at it from their point of view, which wasn’t always a comfortable place to be. They believed that the Inquisition’s mission was to save souls. They saw themselves as shepherds protecting their flock and ensuring that as many of them as possible would get to heaven. Were they misguided and did they do great damage to many families? Absolutely. By putting the Inquisition’s side of the story, I hope the reader will get a more nuanced, three-dimensional view. But I certainly don’t downplay how unjust and repugnant the Inquisition was.
What’s the biggest challenge in writing historical fiction, and what’s the best part?
If you write historical fiction then you do a lot of research. I’m still trying to persuade my wife that I desperately need to return to Andalusia to do some more ‘research’ into the wine and food of the region. But once you start writing you need to let a lot of the detail go. I found that very difficult in my early drafts where I was guilty of trying to show off how much I knew. Hopefully, I’m better at that now as otherwise it can become very boring for the reader. Now that I’ve got an established world and set of characters it is fun thinking about what they might do next. And I’m at the point where they surprise me, which makes writing really enjoyable. I think of the characters as just people who loved, laughed and worried in much the same way as we do. They just did it in a very different context, particularly religiously.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just completed The Heretic’s Daughter which I’m really excited about. I think the cover design by Jennie Rawlings, (http://www.serifim.com) is stunning. I’ll be particularly interested to hear from readers about how they feel about the ending of the book. There are a lot of changes in store for the Alvarez family. This book naturally leads on to the third instalment which I’m hoping to get started on very soon and publish in early 2023.
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