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BOOK REVIEW: Incantation by Alice Hoffman


“I am someone
I never would have imagined.
A secret.
A dream…
body and soul…”

Growing up in the small village of Encaleflora, Spain, Estrella deMadrigal is aware of the Spanish Inquisition but believes it has little to do with her. She and her family attend one of the Catholic Churches in town and her brother is studying to be a priest. However, Estrella is forced to face the brutal reality of the Inquisition as Jews from the ghetto are murdered and she discovers her own family’s secrets – they are Marranos, a community of Jews who public profess to Roman Catholicism while secretly practicing their Judaism and Kabbalah at home.

Shortly after this momentous discovery, her family’s secrets are made public and Estrella confronts a world she’s never imagined, where neighbours turn on each other, where friendship ends in flame, and where betrayal has tragic and bitter consequences. To create a future for her family, Estrella must reach deep within herself and find sources of strength to craft a new reality.

Incantation, Alice Hoffman’s newest novel for young adults, introduces readers to a turbulent period in European history through the eyes of Estrella. Sixteen year-old Estrella enjoys spending time with her best friend Catalina, believing that their destiny is to marry and live next door to each other. “We thought we knew exactly what our lives were made of: still water, not a moving river.”

Fate; however, has different plans for Estrella and Catalina. In 1478, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition in a bid to maintain Catholicism in their kingdoms and in 1500 the Inquisition arrived in Encaleflora and snared Estrella and her family in its trap.

In Incantation, Hoffman has crafted a compelling coming of age story. At a time when the biggest decision facing her should be choosing a young man to marry, Estrella must confront a life built upon lies. Yet even within this dark period, Estrella manages to find dignity and hope.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0316010197
ISBN13: 9780316010191

176 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 4, 2006
Author Website:

Further Reading:
The Cross by Day, the Mezuzzah by Night – Deborah Siegel
Mystery of the Missing Candlestick – June Weltman


2 Comments to

“BOOK REVIEW: Incantation by Alice Hoffman”

  1. On October 26th, 2006 at 10:53 am Carl V. Says:

    Love that cover, looks like Greg Spalenka’s work.

  2. On August 24th, 2009 at 9:16 am Aidana WillowRaven Says:

    Looks like an intense read, even for an adult.

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