I just finished reading Zorro: A Novel by Isabel Allende. I picked it up the other day when I was dropping books off at the library. It was on the cart of books waiting to be shelved and caught my eye. I’ve read most of Allende’s books and really enjoyed The House of the Spirits when I read it in college.
Zorro was a fun read; but too often it felt formulaic, following the pattern of the superhero-creation cliche you find in movies such as Batman Begins. Origin of the mask: check; learning riding skills from gypsies: check; tracking skills from Indians: check; climbing and swinging skills from sailors on trans-Atlantic voyage: check; slight of hand magic from nautical cook: check; encountering famous historical figure who inspires his sartorial choices (pirate Jean Lafitte): check. All the detils from the television show I loved as a kid were there as well: mute Bernardo, bumbling sargeant Garcia, the chandelier with the hundreds of candles, the secret passageway in the back of the fireplace that led to the hidden underground lair, Tornado the horse. But because of the need to stay true to the established legend, it often felt forced. I wonder if it felt that way because I was familiar with the show, though. If I didn’t know anything about Zorro, perhaps it would have been a different experience.
Also, I found the self-referential first person narrator a bit over the top. It felt intrusive, broke up the flow of the story and seemed altogether unnecessary and overly cutesy-clever, especially with the surprise reveal at in the epilogue.
And where she wasn’t sticking too close to the established canon of Zorro, the book slipped into sounding too much like too many of Allende’s other books.
Not on the whole one of Allende’s best works. Good summer beach read, though.