In Spain in the 1760s, a wealthy ranchero owner had two daughters born on the same day. The one to his wife was stillborn. The one to his Gypsy mistress was healthy, and so was secretly swapped for the dead baby. That girl was Jacaranda.
Jacaranda grew up in the luxury of the ranchero, and was taught the ways of her mother’s people through her and the Gypsy farm hands. Then, the Inquisition targeted the ranchero, and sentenced Jacaranda and her family to be burnt at the stake. She escapes with the help of her Gypsy farm hands, and disguised as a boy, she finds work on a slave ship bound for the new world.
Pirates seize the ship, and sell Jacaranda and her friends as slaves. Fortunately, a missionary purchases them on his way to California. She befriends the natives in the area, and begins to settle in, when they find the Inquisition has followed them.
This book is a little confused as to who its audience is. It is short and simply written, implying something made for younger readers, yet there are a few scenes that might be a little intense for them (there is a suicide at the end). There are parts of historic interest and parts of earthy humor.
The history seems a little off to me. The Inquisition’s day was long over, and the golden age of piracy was a generation or two gone, meanwhile, the Spanish Mission era had just started. While technically all these things might have happened, it makes it seem jumbled and a little ad-hoc to throw them all together.
It continued to make me wonder for whom the book is written. Rather simple and short for an adult reader, but a too full of adult themes for a young adult book. I can’t help but think if the novel was a little longer, it could explore the themes of race and intolerance, faith and freedom that it whips on by.