The Merchant from Sepharad
by James Hutson Wiley
New Generation Publishing

"You ask about the land of Sepharad. We Jews arrived long ago in what you call Al-Andalus as slaves of the Romans."

Joshua ben Elazar is a religious man who is dedicated to his Jewish heritage. Joshua’s descendants were slaves of the Romans and arrived in Al-Andalus, an area that is now called “the land of Sepharad.” Joshua plans to succeed as a merchant in Portugal, where Muslims rule, but life there proves to be difficult, and ultimately he fails. He moves on to new lands and, along the way, meets Simon, who murders a man on the streets. Now a witness to the crime, Joshua’s life is further complicated by the fact that he falls in love with Simon’s sister.

Told in first-person narrative, this is the third novel in a series. The author includes a glossary of terms, which proves to be a very useful tool for his readers. Religious persecution is one of the main themes of the novel, and although the setting takes place hundreds of years ago, in a time often referred to as “the dark ages,” this same theme is still relevant today. The plot moves quickly, spurred on by espionage and murder, and Joshua meets a cast of interesting characters along his journey. Joshua is a likable and humble protagonist who undergoes great personal and religious struggles to live a respectable life. Chaos and corruption are everywhere, yet Joshua remains true to his faith. The author paints a colorful picture of the twelfth century, and fans of early European and Middle Eastern history will find much to love here. This is an interesting and well-written novel.

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