by Gloria M (San Jose): I LOVE reading books! However, I usually first borrow books from the library (occasionally from family/friends) and then if I feel the novel deserves five stars AND I would happily re-read it, I will purchase it for my own collection.  This is primarily because I have limited space and limited funds. Occasionally I do buy a work of fiction immediately-when it is part of a series I already have or it is just so intriguing I am 100 confident it meets my criteria.

I was surprised by how quickly I became engrossed in Leigh Bardugo’s latest book, “The Familiar.”   I have other works by Bardugo, but it usually takes a chapter or two for me to become totally invested in the characters, setting and plot.  Luzia is a strong protagonist who unfortunately lives during the time of the Spanish Inquisition.  She is a converso (one of the Jewish faith who converts to the Catholic religion to stay alive) and an orphan and  a destitute servant, forced to sleep on a dirt floor and work constantly with no hope of a better life.  She is intelligent (having learned how to read as a child) and ambitious-yearning to improve her lot.  She is also gifted with a talent for magic (restoring broken items/healing injuries) and once her mistress, Valentina discovers this power things begin to get interesting.

She is forced to perform and we get to go along for the ride.  We watch her grow and discover her true nature and just how powerful she can be and also find love for the first time with Santangel-an immortal man who is not a good person.  We also see Valentina  blossom as a better woman and realize her husband, Marius, will never make her happy.   There are evil priests, there are powerful wealthy men with their own agendas, and an aunt that is more concerned with her own survival than really helping her niece.. Bardugo weaves a captivating tale, full of detail and richly constructed personalities.  It is difficult to put down!   It is ideal for those who love historical fiction and those who love literary fiction.   I am grateful to BookBrowse and Flatiron Books for the ARC- but I definitely would have gone out to buy it!! It is a keeper!!