Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Review: 'The Sacred Symbol' by Paula Wynne

American author Paula Wynne began her career in writing after moving to rural Andalusia, Spain. This journey/change of location was documented: Paula and her husband Ken starred in the BBC Show, ‘Escape to the Continent’, which showed their quest to live in Spain. Though this is her first novel, Paula, has won acclaim for the Writers’ Resource Series – ‘A-Z Writers’ Character Quirks’, ‘Pimp My Fiction’, ‘Create a Successful Website,’ and ‘Pimp My Site’.

Paula’s novel, THE SACRED SYMBOL, is a ‘conspiracy mystery thriller’ that is the second installment in her TORCAL TRILOGY series (Book 1 is the highly acclaimed THE GROTTO’S SECRET) and she does indeed know how to spin a yarn that involves the reader from page one. ‘July 1492, Convento de la Rábida, Spain Ana-María de Carbonela plunged through the pine trees, too scared to scream. Hot breath rasped in her chest, burning a path up to her parched lips. The gravelly voices still followed close behind. She squinted through the silver moonlit woods. Blood pumped in her ears as a tapestry of shadows swayed towards her. Were they bandits? Or the inquisition men? María shivered. Her stomach churned. She couldn’t face any more soldiers. They would put a stop to her quest. Worse than that, if they discovered her true identity, they would dispatch her back to Queen Isabella. She swung back, but a branch slammed into her face, punching the air out of her lungs. As she stumbled blindly for a moment, her boot caught in a gnarled root. She tripped and plummeted down the knoll. Breathing hard, she spat out a mouthful of dirt and lay on the pine-scented needles. Yesterday’s heat still warmed the ground. The voices charged between the trees. María slithered on her stomach and crawled behind a wide tree trunk. She peered through the eerie woodland, watching for movement. Listening for the voices. A twig snapped behind her. Her head snapped back as she peered into the darkness. A wild boar scuttled through the brush and disappeared over the hill she had just tumbled down. María lay still. Her eyes and ears were on full alert.’ Without further probing we have a finger on the pulse and direction of the novel – except for the well-paced twists that offer background and purpose of the story’s drive.

Paula offers a fine synopsis: ‘July 1492, Palos de la Frontera, Spain Ana-María de Carbonela must warn Christopher Columbus that his crew are planning a mutiny, but she is captured. When her Jewish tutor is caught and punished for rescuing her, she has a terrible decision to make. Can she save him and get to Columbus in time to reveal his crew’s betrayal? Or will she risk the death penalty for dressing as a man? Meanwhile, in present time, Giovanni Armellini is on a hunt for one of the world’s most precious and priceless artefacts: Columbus’ original Book of Privileges. A codex hidden inside will forever change the rumours about the famous admiral. Giovanni will go to deadly lengths to claim it. Then, Nina Monterossa finds her world is turned upside down when her family is under attack and her sister held to ransom. The race is on. From Genoa to a remote island off Scotland and rural Andalucía, she must find the original Book of Privileges in time to save her sister. In doing so, will she discover the secrets Columbus kept hidden from the world?

Able to put this book down before finishing it? Doubt it. Propulsive and rich in imagery and tension, THE SACRED SYMBOL is as enchanting as Book 1 - and perhaps more so. Grady Harp, December 17

(Editor's note: Mrs. Wynne contacted the SFRB and stated that she is "not an American writer" but a "South African born" one who is "British now living in Spain". The Review apologizes for any unintentional confusion.)

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.