Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: "By Fire, By Water" by Mitchell James Kaplan

From Goodreads:  Luis de Santángel, 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 Tomás 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, Santángel 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 Santángel 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 Santángel 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.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  That being said, this really is one of the best books I have read this year.  The writing was absolutely beautiful; Kaplan's descriptions are amazing and he makes it seem as though you can hear and see what is going on in the story.  The story sucked me in immediately and I just could not wait to find out what would happen next.  I know very little about this period in history but this book made me want to learn more.  The characters were fascinating and I really felt for Luis de Santangel; he had to sacrifice everything he loved and he lost so much.  I was so shocked by the behavior of the clergy in the story; most of them, Torquemada, Rodriguez, etc, were such evil characters who claimed to be so holy.  I loved the character of Judith; she was a strong resilient character and she definitely made the story that much better.  I have read a lot of bad historical fiction in recent months and have kind of stepped away from the genre.  This book made me want to go back to it.  I didn't know what to expect from this book but it was excellent.  I would highly recommend it and I will definitely be looking forward to Kaplan's next book.  4 1/2 stars.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this book too. I agree, the writing was wonderful and I also learned a lot about this time in history.


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