Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #5: Incantation January 22, 2010

While deciding what to read next, I found a copy of Alice Hoffman’s Incantation. In the reviews for The Apprentice’s Masterpiece, it mentioned Hoffman’s book, so I decided to give it a shot.


Incantation by Alice Hoffman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2007

Courtesy of

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7 Up–The opposing forces of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal underscore this brief but rich tale set during the Spanish Inquisition. Told by 16-year-old Estrella deMadrigal, the novel shows how gruesome beliefs nourished by ignorance and prejudice destroyed the lives of countless people. Hoffman weaves a tale of a close friendship between two teens, Estrella and Catalina. Both envision that their lives will be intertwined forever. However, there is a secret about Estrella and her family that unfolds in spurts. The deMadrigals are Jews who follow their religion in secret, appearing to the world as good Catholics in order to escape persecution. Hoffman, a master storyteller, has captured this harsh time and the fragile lives of the hidden Jews. On one level this is the story of a friendship and the deadly interference of jealousy. It is also a story of the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit. Estrella develops incredible strength as she tries to save herself and her grandmother. Ultimately, it is the love of a Christian, Catalina’s cousin Andres, that saves her. Hoffman’s lyrical prose and astute characterization blend to create a riveting, horrific tale that unites despair with elements of hope. Good companion selections include Waldtraut Lewin’s Freedom beyond the Sea (Delacorte, 2001) and Kathryn Lasky’s Blood Secret (HarperCollins, 2004).–Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

First off, LOVELY cover.  I love the presence of the red lily, which is important later in the book.

Strengths: Fast-paced, solid read.  Estrella is a strong, beautiful heroine.  Again, I was delighted (morbidly so, I suppose) to read about a less-than-ordinary time period–the Spanish Inquisition.  I love that Hoffman doesn’t pull any punches; she portrays the Inquisition’s horrors without apology.  Her descriptions are vivid and straightforward and ring with accuracy.  Despite the dark terror she portrays, she’s still able to end the story on a hopeful note without sounding forced.

Potential Flaws: Again, I’m at a loss on this one.  Difficult to pick anything that is really a FLAW, per se.

My Rating:

Well-written and entertaining.