I have heard so much about this book and how it is the ultimate biography about Zorro. I give it three out of five stars. There is much good about the book, but it suffers from an excessive amount of verbosity. Take this passage from page 246 as an example:
This woman had very little to give, and she was weary of having beggars stop in, but she did not want to leave them without shelter. Because Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary could not find a place in the inn, the child Jesus was born in a manger, she said. She believed that refusing a pilgrim was repaid with many centuries of suffering in purgatory.The first sentence would have sufficed. It was not necessary to go on and on about why. The entire book is like this. The above passage particularly annoyed me as it was near the end of a humongous paragraph—more on this below.
The background information from the beginning of the book about Don Alejandro and Toypurnia is interesting, but it lasts for far too long. Diego's childhood is far too long. Diego's time in Spain is far too long. It was during Diego's time in Spain that the book lost my interest, and so I put it away for many months.
The first half of this book reminds me of the first half of the fifth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The first half of Order of the Phoenix drags along at a snail's pace, and it is not until Harry and his friends finally arrive at Hogwarts that anything interesting happens. About half of the first half of the book could have been removed, and this is how I feel about the Allende book.
While the first half of Zorro is slow and tedious, the second half is pretty good. The last 100 or so pages is quite interesting, and personally, I would have preferred for the last part to have been longer than the first part of the book. I felt like there were things that should have been expanded upon near the end of the book that were barely mentioned. There would have been more time for those things if the beginning of the book had not been so long.
The main characteristic of this book that I did not like is the lack of paragraphs. A majority of the paragraphs run on for one and sometimes to nearly two pages. I am someone who will read small portions of a book at a time, and I like to be able to find easy stopping points. This is hard when every paragraph goes on forever. I have no idea if the lack of paragraphs is how Allende writes in Spanish, or if the lack of paragraphs was caused by the translation to English. Whichever it is, it is a serious flaw in this book.