Another vivid, polished historical novel from the author of The Moonclock. This one begins in 1580 with 19-year-old Miguel de Roxas, a medical student at Padua, summoned home to Saragossa, Spain, to claim the estate of his father, retired physician to the emperor. The older doctor, Miguel learns from the summons, has taken his own life while waiting in prison to be executed by the Inquisition for hiding Jews in his cellar. Once home, Miguel finds the family fortune impounded and himself a virtual prisoner, closely watched by the Machiavellian Bishop, who wants him in Spain, and the Bishop's venal secretary, who engineered Miguel's father's arrest and has his eye on the house. So, when the privileged and arrogant medical student escapes--for he will return to the enlightened and intellectual climate he thrived on in Padua--he must go penniless, disguised as a peasant and doing lowly work in exchange for board and shelter. He makes his way to his father's printer friend in Basel and works for a time with the printer's daughter Vrone to earn his Padua tuition. When he leaves, her heart goes with him, and it is really no surprise after he graduates--and barely escapes kidnapping by Spanish agents who kill his Padua friend instead--that he thinks of her and returns to marry. A few years later Miguel the doctor, still in Basel, will be summoned to the deathbed of the despicable secretary. That dramatic scene is followed by a smallpox epidemic that will infect Miguel: we leave him contemplating the first telltale mark, uncertain of his fate. Von Canon's talent for dramatizing characters, encounters, and political climate, and her attention to sensuous detail (most notably, the foods of the different classes and countries) give the novel the enveloping vitality prized by enthusiasts of historical fiction.