By Fire, by Water

By Fire, by Water

A Novel

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
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Recipient of the Independent Publishers Award for Historical Fiction (Gold Medal), the Foreword Book of the Year Award for Historical Fiction (Bronze Medal), and an honorable mention in the category of General Fiction for the Eric Hoffer Award.

Luis de Sant#65533;ngel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tom#65533;s de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend's demise brings the violence close to home, Sant#65533;ngel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands.  But he is from a family of conversos , and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Sant#65533;ngel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he'd lost...the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Sant#65533;ngel can help him.
   Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water , torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.
Publisher: New York : Other Press, c2010.
ISBN: 9781590513521
Characteristics: 284 p. : map ; 22 cm.

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j
jenzbooks
Jun 07, 2012

Kaplan brings to life the fear and bigotry of this time period, inserting enough historical detail to give the reader a sense of medieval life. His characterization of Torquemada as a menacing obsessive is marvelous, as is the visual drama of life in different echelons of 15th century Spanish society. I found the exploration of the necessity of questioning one’s real faith vs. traditional faith fascinating.

s
Sara_J_Anderson
Apr 28, 2011

I was prepared to like this book. I truly was. Kaplan covers a lot of ground and has clearly done so by conducting vast amounts of research on his subjects: Christopher Columbus, Isabella & Ferdinand, the New Inquisition and the expulsion of Spain's Jewish population. It felt to me, though, as if he has written this book only to sell the movie rights. The writing, while precise, is bloodless. I wanted very much to connect more deeply with Luis de Santangel and Judith Midgala, but I found I could not. Kaplan writes (cinematographically, as his background perhaps dictates) in short bursts of 200 and 300 words, with quick cuts to other scenes, which left me feeling distant from the characters. I wanted more than this book afforded.

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