“The Apprentice’s Masterpiece” by Melanie Little

This is a very disturbing little book.. and very well-written.

Set in Medieval Spain, it tells the story of two teen-aged
boys -Ramon Benveniste, a converso, or Jew converted to Christianity,
and Amir,a Muslim. Ramon is following the trade of his father, a famous
scribe. Amir has been sent to be their slave.

This is l5th century Spain at the time when Queen Isabella bears
down with a zeal to convert the entire country to Christianity.
Up til now the various provinces had enjoyed an enlightened period when
Jews, Muslims and Christians coexisted in peace and considerable
prosperity. Now the Spanish Inquisition set up an Office where
Spaniards were encouraged to report and tell on their neighbours. Fear
filled the country.

This book tells in blank verse how these two boys struggle against
events that conspire to destroy them both.

The author,Melanie Little, has won many prizes for her essays and
short fiction, particularly her essays for young adults. She won the
Markin-Flanagan Canadian Writer in Residence at the University of
Calgary in 2005, and continues to live in Calgary where she edits the
new literary imprint, Freehand Books.

Book Review by Anne McDougall