The Mapmaker’s Daughter by Laurel Corona

As I proclaimed in one of my earlier postsRose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge has inspired even this diehard nonfiction fan to read more fiction. Of course, if I’m going to read fiction there’s a strong likelihood it’s going to be historical fiction since that’s what this old history buff is going to read. So, when I found out my public library had available a novel set in the 15th century on the Iberian peninsula I figured what the heck and grabbed it.

Published in 2014, Laurel Corona’s The Mapmaker’s Daughter tells the story of Amalia Riba, a Sephardic Jew and Converso. The story begins with her as a young girl living in Spain. A child prodigy possessing intelligence and talent far beyond her years, she eagerly assists her mapmaker father in translating documents and other important duties. After her mothers dies, her and her father move to Portugal so he can supply his cartographical skills to Henry the Navigator. Upon growing to young womanhood, she’s married off to a Portuguese explorer but without revealing any spoilers let’s just say the only things good about her marriage is it was short and resulted in the birth of her daughter. From there she falls in love with a dashing and intelligent Moorish ambassador and moves to the Muslim kingdom of Grenada to be with him. Later, she leaves Grenada returning to both Portugal and Spain. The novel ends with Amalia a much older woman, reflecting on the events of her life as she and her co-religionists are being cast out of Spain per Ferdinand and Isabella’s infamous royal decree.

The Mapmaker’s Daughter made for light, but nevertheless entertaining reading. Kudos to author Corona for weaving into her story true historical figures like Spain’s Queen Isabella and Grand Inquisitor Torquemada. If you’re a history fan like myself it’s hard not to like the novel The Mapmaker’s Daughter.

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