Acts of Faith

Part 1 of the Inquisition Trilogy

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
303 Pages
Reviewed on 01/18/2020
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Author Biography

I am a retired radiologist currently living in Jerusalem, Israel. I’ve always had an interest in Jewish history.

When I was a teenager, I read the account of Diego Lopes in Cecil Roth’s History of the Marranos. I was fascinated by it and I never forgot it.

Fifty years later when I came across Miriam Bodian’s Dying in the Law of Moses, with its description of Diego Lopes’ actual trial transcripts in the Inquisition’s archives, I was overwhelmed. That’s when I felt compelled to write Acts of Faith

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Acts of Faith is a work of historical fiction focusing on mysterious events brought about by the activity of the Portuguese Inquisition, penned by author Martin Elsant. In the first novel of The Inquisition Trilogy, we find ourselves in Europe of the sixteenth century where religion is highly important and the faith one practices can result in life or death, depending on who has the power. The person in question here is Diego Lopes, who dies in an auto-da-fé (heretic burning), or at least he’s supposed to. Elsant explores the beliefs on either side of the divide of religion from those who viewed Lopes as a sinner or a saint.

Not knowing a great deal about this area of history, I was delighted to find myself so well entrenched in the world of sixteenth-century Portugal right from the opening of this excellent tale. Author Martin Elsant pays attention to detail and creates a great atmosphere with the word images which are painted through every scene. Perhaps the strongest element of this history-come-to-life is in its social awareness and character development. The players of the tale reflect authentic attitudes and beliefs of the time, and they feel the pain of oppression, suspicion and the power of the Inquisition with palpable emotional energy. The story is one of struggle and conflict, but also of love and the search for the truth. Overall, top-quality writing makes Acts of Faith a highly recommended read for fans of world history.

Asher Syed

Acts of Faith by Martin Elsant is the first book in the author's historical fiction Inquisition Trilogy. Diego Lopes is a Christian man with a family history of Judaism, a dangerous ancestry to have during the 16th century Inquisition. Arrests, charges and ultimately the punishment of heresy convictions begin with a slow trickle, then eventually ravage Portugal, including those close to Lopes—and then Lopes himself. Brother Ari, who is connected to the widower Lopes through a close affection to Lopes' daughter Maria, concocts a plan with the convicted man's daughter to prevent Diego Lopes from having to die, as the punishment for Judaizing is applied to the condemned: being burned at the stake.

Acts of Faith is an interesting piece of historical fiction as author Martin Elsant weaves together the story in a steady threading of the Inquisition itself. I often found some of the dialogue to feel a bit modern, but the historical details Elsant applies balance it out, as does the intriguing nature of the story itself. There are graphic descriptions of torture that are critical to the story and build on the gravity of events that actually did take place, even in a fiction book. The Inquisitors were not fair. They were not just. They tortured, they brutalized, and they broke everyone who was forced into their cold cells. Elsant doesn't dance around this, nor should he as it lends to the accuracy that readers of historical fiction demand. On the other end of the spectrum is also a budding romance between Ari and Maria; a sub-plot that provides hope where there seemingly is none. The book doesn't end with the dreaded cliffhanger now popular with so many trilogies, although there's no question readers will want to know what happens next...especially after an awed crowd hoping for a good execution are left baffled by the cries, “It's a miracle!”

Rabia Tanveer

Acts of Faith is the first part of The Inquisition Trilogy by Martin Elsant. This is the story of a man named Diego; a man considered a hero by one religion and the devil by another. Diego Lopez was just like any other man, but he was very different. He was a man who loved with his whole heart. He loved his wife so much that when she died, he refused to remarry and concentrated on taking care of their daughter Maria. He didn’t want his daughter to lack anything so he gave her the best of everything. He gave her the best tutors, the best dresses, the best food and the best of himself as well. He was a man who was well-respected in the community, so what really happened? What happened that resulted in him being burned at stake? Was he really taken to heaven or was he taken to hell?

When you start reading a historical novel, you expect a lot of facts and very little plot to go on. Author Martin Elsant has done a brilliant job of not only giving readers solid facts but he backed it all up with a brilliant plot that kept me reading on. All the characters, including Diego, Maria and Ari, were given ample opportunities to grow and become better. Before reading this novel, I wasn’t aware of the fact that Diego actually converted to Christianity; I had no idea he had a family and had a life. Being a literature major, my eyes always look for details, the little things that are often overlooked, and I was glad the author offered them in spades. The author actually gave Diego’s story substance and made sure the reader would be ready for all the action and suspense. I enjoyed Acts of Faith; it was educational and entertaining, which is a very rare mix.