A swashbuckling adventure story that reveals for the first time how Diego de la Vega became the masked man we all know so well. "Until that moment Diego had not been conscious of his dual personality, one part Diego de la Vega, elegant, affected, hypochondriac, and the other part El Zorro, audacious, daring, playful." Born in southern California late in the 18th century, Diego de la Vega is a child of two worlds. His father is an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner; his mother, a Shoshone warrior. Diego learns from his maternal grandmother, White Owl, the ways of her tribe while receiving from his father lessons in the art of fencing and in cattle branding. It is here, during Diego's childhood, filled with mischief and adventure, that he witnesses the brutal injustices dealt Native Americans by European settlers and first feels the inner conflict of his heritage. At the age of sixteen, Diego is sent to Barcelona for a European education.
In a country chafing under the corruption of Napoleonic rule, Diego follows the example of his celebrated fencing master and joins La Justicia, a secret underground resistance movement devoted to helping the powerless and the poor. With these tumultuous times as backdrop, Diego falls in love, saves the persecuted, and confronts for the first time a great rival who emerges from the world of privilege. Between California and Barcelona, the New World and the Old, the persona of Zorro is formed, a great hero is born and the legend begins. After many adventures - duels at dawn, fierce battles with pirates at sea, and impossible rescues - Diego de la Vega, a.k.a. Zorro, returns to America to reclaim the hacienda on which he was raised and to seek justice for all who cannot fight for it themselves.
Isabel Allende was born in 1942, the cousin of Salvador Allende, who went on to become famous as the elected President of Chile deposed in a CIA-backed coup. She worked as a journalist, playwright and children's writer in Chile until 1974 and then in Venezuela until 1984. Her first novel for adults, The House of the Spirits, was published in Spanish in 1982, beginning life as a letter to her dying grandfather. It was an international sensation, and ever since all her books have been acclaimed and adored in numberless translations worldwide.