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Zahara and the Lost Books of Light: A Novel

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4.68  ·  Rating details ·  40 ratings  ·  34 reviews
When Seattle journalist Alienor Crespo travels to Granada to apply for citizenship as a descendant of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, she uncovers her own family story, along with a hidden treasure trove of medieval Hebrew and Arabic books, saved from the fires of the Inquisition.

This “Library of Light” is being protected by a secretive group of literary caretakers. Ali
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Paperback, 350 pages
Published December 7th 2020 by Adelaide Books
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Kiran Bhat
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Zahara and the Lost Books of Light is the novel of a Spanish-American journalist, who travels back to Spain to learn about her heritage. The novel moves in time between the high periods of Al-Andalus history and present time by anchoring itself in the Crespo family. The novel is an exploration on the meaning of religion and identity in an ever changing world, and is of great interest for anyone interested in witnessing the history of a nation personalised and humanised through the narrative of i ...more
Elizabeth Gauffreau
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Zahara and the Lost Books of Light opens with a gripping scene from the Spanish Inquisition. In a moonlit plaza in Granada, “The smell of incipient violence taints the air.” Although a dozen severed earlobes hanging from the Arc of the Ears bear witness to the loss of human life that day, the incipient violence in the air is not directed toward heretics. It is directed toward heretical works: books.

The plaza is piled high with books of poetry and all manner of scholarship that have been ripped
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Satbir Chadha
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have read Joyce Yarrow’s earlier novels and enjoyed them but ZAHARA AND THE BOOKS OF LIGHT is a major landmark novel in the genre of historical fiction. It is certainly a page-turner as the narration keeps you hooked. I found it to be a work of art for one simply travels along with the protagonist Alienor Crespo in her fascinating journey that starts quite innocently with her hope to get back to the soil where her roots are but she gets sucked deeper and deeper into dangerous fanatical politic ...more
John Casey
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It is rare when I run across a book of fiction with great entertainment value that also has the capacity to educate the reader in a significant way. I say “capacity to educate” because some may choose to forego learning and simply enjoy the wild ride. Zahara and The Lost Books of Light stands out in this respect, however, as the author pens her chapters in a way that reminds us of the themes of social responsibility, peace, and acceptance in a way that is unavoidable and still somehow, non-repet ...more
Rashida Murphy
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The protagonist of this beautiful novel is Seattle journalist Alienor Crespo, a woman gifted with vijitas, a vision which allows her to move back and forth in time. As a literary device this is highly effective and magically prophetic. To write a historical novel that involves a time period from 1240 to the present day while keeping the reader firmly anchored in Alienor’s perspective as she slips in and out of the consciousness of her female ancestors, requires a highly skilled writer, which Joy ...more
Scotty Johnson
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There have always been people who try to hide the truth. There will always be those who try to liberate it. With her latest novel, “Zahara and the Lost Books of Light,” Joyce Yarrow has crafted an elegant narrative that weaves across centuries, generations, and family lines. The result is a compelling tapestry of themes and characters strikingly relevant to our times, one that shows how modern attempts to distort and bury the truth are deeply rooted in human history.

Those who cherish truth, esp
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Matt Bloom
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The highest compliment I can give a novel is that it transports me from the here and now to an entirely different world. Zahara and the Lost Books of Light, by Joyce Yarrow, did that from page one. I was instantly absorbed in the story of Seattle journalist, Alienor Crespo, as she seeks to reconnect with her Sephardic Jewish family by returning to Spain and seeking Spanish citizenship; and also via “vijita” or second sight, which is Alienor’s special ability to connect with her ancestors by trav ...more
Diane
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In Zahara and the Lost Books of Light, author Joyce Yarrow deftly introduces us to a world of books and spirituality so wondrous that we’re convinced it must be real, and we want to find it, explore it, live in it. Alas, Zahara only exists in the pages of this wonderful novel, but you will love the time you spend there with the protagonist, Alienor Crespo. An American journalist who is merely trying to restore her Spanish citizenship, Alienor stumbles on this vast library of spiritual books that ...more
Kate Eminhizer
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
The intrigue of this book begins with its title, Zahara. In Arabic and Hebrew that name means "flowering or shining". For the purposes of this book Zahara exemplifies a religious utopia. Yarrow delivers a story that promotes a paradise where members of all religious communities live and learn together in harmony. She utilizes historical nuggets to present context for the community that emerged to protect the tomes that were saved from devastating fires intent on destroying the knowledge bound wi ...more
Donna Koros Stramella
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Author Joyce Yarrow has created a unique tale founded in history, and delivers the story line with lyrical language, well-rendered characters, descriptive settings, and excellent pacing. Protagonist Alienor Crespo, a Seattle journalist, discovers she is eligible for Spanish citizenship as the descendant of Jews who were brutally banished from the country centuries prior. Still dealing with the crushing loss of her mother, Crespo talks her editor into letting her explore the story first-hand, and ...more
Keith Madsen
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a time-travel novel for our time. I know! That seems contradictory, but, hear me out. Joyce Yarrow’s novel, ZAHAR AND THE LOST BOOKS OF LIGHT is first of all a time-travel novel, and as such, it takes a unique approach. Many time-travel novels posit wormholes that are key to the person transitioning to the other time period. Such was the case with Stephen King’s 11/22/63, where the protagonist discovers a wormhole when going into a closet. In a TV series of a couple of years ago, Timeles ...more
Rita Wirkala
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Alienor Crespo, the brave protagonist of Zahara and the Lost Books of Light, is an American journalist with roots in Spain who travels there to explore her origins, only to find an unimaginable treasure. In a network of tunnels under a village in Andalusia, hundreds of volumes saved from the fires of the Inquisition make up an extraordinary library. This is overwhelming proof of a glorious past, a time when the "People of the Book," (adherents of Judaism, Islam and Christianity), lived in harmon ...more
James White
Zahara And The Lost Books Of Light


‘The plot thickens’ is an apt way of describing Joyce Yarrow’s richly written saga of courage, intrigue, and mystery in her book Zahara And The Lost Books Of Light.

The story opens when Alienor Crespo, a Seattle journalist, feels like a screenwriter who’s been asked to play a role in her latest script while she researches a story about the first Sephardic woman from Seattle to apply for Spanish citizenship.

Alienor’s research uncovers news about displaced Jews bei
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Toni Morgan
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Although I knew that Jews and non-Christians had been expelled from Spain after living together for centuries, I knew little about what happened to them after they left Spain. In her novel, ZAHARA and the Lost Books of Light, Joyce Yarrow enlightened me in an imaginative saga that takes the reader on a careening trip through history, bouncing between the past and the present.

In 2015, Spain offered citizenship to descendants of Separdic Jews who’d been expelled from the country centuries before,
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Jim Metzner
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brace yourself for a deep dive into the dark side of Spanish history, from the Inquisition to Franco. All seen through the eyes of a feisty contemporary heroine, Alienor Crespo and a posse of her ancestors. Author Joyce Yarrow has solved the conundrum of time travel with a simple, elegant and entirely believable bit of artifice. Alienor is gifted with vijitas, where she is whisked back in time, experiencing key moments in the lives of her female forebears. More often than not, it's a moment of c ...more
Carol LaHines
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Alienor Crispo is a Seattle journalist on a quest to learn about her forbears. She has Vijitas, the gift of second sight, and is privy to the memories of female ancestors like heroic great-aunt Luzia who married a Muslim and remained in Spain following WWII, and Jariya al-Qasam, who lived during the Inquisition. When Alienor learns that the Spanish government is granting citizenship to the descendants of the Sephardim, she travels to the Continent. Upon arrival, she is embroiled in present-day i ...more
Santosh Bakaya
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The intriguing cover of the book beckons one to immediately delve into the pages, and once one delves into it, it is very difficult to disentangle oneself from the hold of this riveting, page-turner of a book. Inspired by a sixteenth-century Ladino song, the book which is also a tribute to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, begins with a Prologue- Granada, Spain, October, 1499 where we are magically pulled into the midst of surreal moments and things like sheepskin parchment, cloaks of invisibility, ...more
Michael G.
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a serious page-turner, a determined but treacherous exploration into a past so exotic and enigmatic that I simply couldn't turn away. Once I saw how it ended, I immediately went back and read it again just to enjoy the tasty language. This is the perfect escape to take on vacation and enjoy by the pool! The voice and tone were altogether mesmerizing! I HIGHLY recommend! An easy five stars! ***** ...more
Sweta Vikram
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A compelling tale about a woman on a quest about her identity, ancestry, and forbidden past. Ms. Yarrow represents a whole range of historical and contemporary issues in a very engaging style.
Sweta Vikram, best-selling author of "Louisiana Catch"
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Bhaswati
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Zahara and the Lost Books of Light by Joyce Yarrow is that rare book that is at once topical and timeless. Yarrow teleports her readers across centuries to help them relive La Convivencia — a unique period in Spanish history when the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexisted in relative peace. Alienor Crespo, the present-day narrator of the novel is the descendant of a Jewish family, which, along with other members of its faith, was expelled from Spain in the 15th ce ...more
Deborah
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly enjoyable book--an interesting mix of magical realism, present day politics, and the inclusion of elements of a crime thriller all rolled into one. I would have liked to give it a 4.5 or 4.6 rather than a 4, but Goodreads doesn't let you do that! What holds me back from a 5 were just some small things here and there that didn't quite ring believable to me, but I would still heartily recommend this as a book to read to escape into another world!! ...more
Pete
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous, gripping, can't-put-it-down novel, perfect for "covid reading" in that if you can't go out, why not go to Spain with Seattle journalist Alienor Crespo! A fascinating, thought-provoking story spanning generations, but not in the way you'd think. I enjoyed it immensely, and now I look forward to reading everything else Joyce Yarrow has published. ...more
Daria Price
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing


In this engrossing novel a woman boards a plane to Spain and winds up on a voyage back through centuries of religious and political persecution. What started as a simple trip to reclaim Spanish citizenship based on her Sephardic ancestry blooms into an examination of how this history has severed branches of her own family tree. Her quest for reconnection drops her smack into a contemporary world of fanatics and fascists, but also reveals a gentler more harmonious period that once was, the Convi
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Moreen Littrell
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Zahara is an action-packed ride - of a journalist on a quest to her ancestral homeland only to fall into a dangerous "story" - told in a voice that ranges from bare facts a la the journalistic trade to scintillating, evocative prose (especially when the journalist enters her ancestral-gifted visions). It's a heady, enlightening and transporting read - a wholly original epic. You won't feel your feet hit the ground till you finish! Yarrow is at her best evoking these visions and personas who carr ...more
Laura Darius
May 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Joyce Yarrow, author of “Zahara and the Lost Books of Light” creates lush cinematic images with words. Her intensely descriptive writing conveys place, history, romance, conflict and danger drawn from her intuition, historical knowledge and sheer talent.

The scenes throughout the book flip between the present and the 16th Century during the Spanish Inquisition. The main character, Alienor, a Seattle journalist, moves to Spain to delve into her Sephardic heritage.

All her life Alienor has experie
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Hans Trujillo
Apr 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic journey through history and fantasy.

I’m a slow reader, I love to dig in in every story, specially when It’s full of historical events. I take my time to check every fact, location or historical background. So, for me Zahara and the Lost Books if Light was like a delicious dessert. I ate it slowly, savoring every bite.
The novel has it all, from philosophy to mystery, from adventure to spirituality; And you get more and more into the story as it advances. At certain points, I thought I
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Stacie
Feb 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Oh my goodness, Friends. Where does one begin, when one comes across such a nuanced novel?

Somehow, Ms. Joyce Yarrow managed to tell a story, create a plot, add in history, weave a little magic and build some memorable characters, all wrapped up in one brilliant book. Alienor Crespo gets the chance of a lifetime when she learns that the Spanish government is allowing citizenship for descendants of the Sephardim. (I am ashamed to say that I was not familiar with that term, and so immediately set o
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Bozena
Mar 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is not what I expected.
I don't even know what category the book should be assigned to.
It doesn’t matter, I loved and enjoyed it very much.

It's a fascinating story that begins with the Spanish Inquisition in 1499 with the burning of all non-Christian books and ends in 2019.
This book is so complex and so incredibly interesting that I couldn't stop reading it.

A young Spanish-American journalist Alienor Crespo travels to Spain to claim the citizenship offered to the descendants of the J
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Rita Baker
Mar 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
There are times when a novel grabs your attention from the very beginning Zahara and the Lost Book of Light by Joyce Yarrow is one such read. From page one you become transported into a world of magical charm and interest, whose characters jump from the pages into your mind, your thoughts, your heart as journalist Alienor Crespo travels to Spain seeking citizenship in the land of her ancestors and reconnect with her family's past and mixed Jewish-Muslim heritage.
Alienor also has a strange and s
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P Fong
May 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Zahara and the Lost Books of Light is one well-written, thoroughly engaging novel that has something for everyone: romance, sex, a thrilling who-done-it twist, a bit of cultural history thrown in, a dash of contemporary politics and religious philosophy - all skillfully woven together to make a read that was hard for me to put down from start to finish!

Journalist Alienor Crespo begins what seems like a routine journey to Spain to apply for citizenship as a descendant of one of Spain's many forme
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Joyce Yarrow is the author of literary novels of suspense that “appeal to readers who enjoy unusual stories with an international setting.” - Library Journal

Her latest offerings are SANDSTORM, a coming-of-age story of crime and redemption (D.X. Varos, July, 2021) and ZAHARA AND THE LOST BOOKS OF LIGHT, a historical fantasy (Adelaide Books, 2020).

Joyce's other published novels of suspense include
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