review: El Rey

FINALEl Rey: A Novel of Renaissance Iberia

by Ginger Myrick

In a genre saturated with settings in England, France and Italy, Ginger Myrick presents her saga based in Renaissance Iberia—Castile, Portugal and Spain. This spellbinding story not only connects readers with the main protagonist, Inez Garcia, but all of the men and women who made her world. Because the story goes into such detail with several of the characters, the author has broken the book into an optional abridged version with accompanying novellas—for those who would rather read in sections. I, however, feel the author sculpted the story seamlessly and brilliantly with the inclusion of the background stories on various characters.

El Rey—the King—is not an actual royal moniker, though Estevao has a tenuous claim to the Portuguese throne. A mariner with a lucrative business in trading goods, as well as serving the Portuguese King as a privateer, El Rey had a reputation among the mercantiles of the ports. This is where he met eleven-year-old Inez, the daughter of an affluent merchant. Though he was many years her senior, they struck up an easy friendship and bonded over their love of animals and music, and he teasingly promised to marry her one day. Inez, dazzled and falling in love with the handsome traveler, took this to heart and awaited the day that he would return and claim her.

I feel it would spoil the story to go further in this synopsis, but rest assured there are several lifetimes of love, religion, family, heartbreak and loss chronicled within the pages. Estevao and his parents, Inez’s parents and even a beloved servant tell the stories of their past, their heritage and the very details that brought their differing backgrounds into the same household. Portuguese, Castilian—even English—roots are cleverly entwined into this profoundly engaging saga that ends on the Portuguese island of Terceira in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

As a veteran reader of historical fiction and lover of the classics of the genre, this is historical fiction at its best. The fact that the author was inspired by the likes of Anya Seton and Jean Plaidy quickly interested me in her book, as so many writers these days offer a more modern style, inserting contemporary wording and personalities. El Rey not only encompasses several generations of families, but straightforwardly narrates the plight of the reviled Gypsies, the conquered Spanish Jewish community and the skirmishes between Castile and Portugal. For readers not well versed in this particular era of Iberian history, this is a poignant account of events, prejudices and diversity.

Myrick’s writing style is beautifully fashioned with perfect prose and classic styling. El Rey surpassed even this self-proclaimed grammar fanatic’s expectations, which is exceedingly excellent for a self-edited piece. I cannot give enough praise to this author, and I hope that readers will give her book (unabridged or separated into novellas) a chance.