Giveaway directions at the end of the review. Good luck!!
By Fire, By Water is former screenwriter Mitchell James Kaplan’s first novel. Set during 15th-Century Spain, By Fire, By Water takes the reader on a journey through Spain during the time of the Inquisition and the expansion of the Spanish empire. The novel is told with exquisite detail (six years of research!) and rich, layered characters.
King Ferdinand’s chancellor and close friend Luis de Santangel thinks that the Spanish Inquisition has done nothing but create a landscape of fear and paranoia in Spain. Fed up with the power-hungry inquisitor, General Tomás de Torquemada, he sets out with friend Christopher Columbus to Rome in the hopes that the Pope will somehow intervene. Santangel is especially nervous not only for himself, but his son and brother, because they come from a long line of conversos. (Conversos are families who were formerly of the Jewish faith but have made the transition over to Catholicism). Santangel has been having secret meetings with his aide, a Catholic priest named Caceres, and a Jewish scribe, discussing the theological differences between Judaism and Catholicism. Fearful that these meetings will be discovered after his aide is put to death for his defiance of the teachings of the Catholic Church, Santangel and Caceres hire an assassin to kill an influential priest responsible for his aide’s torture and subsequent death. Witnessing the religious climate around him becoming more hostile, Santangel begins to turn to his roots in the Jewish faith in an increasingly anti-Semitic atmosphere. Santangel must try to escape persecution for the contract killing, as well as deal with his ever-growing love for Judith, a silver craftswomen, all while deciding what is more important to him: his faith or his life.
Kaplan does an absolutely superb job weaving the storylines of Santangel, Judith, Columbus, and the King and Queen of Spain together. Their individual stories come together effortlessly in this bloggers opinion. Kaplan is a born writer, with his eloquent writing style drawing you in from page one. It is so apparent that he researched this story, as it is just bursting at the seams with intricate detail. I honestly felt like I could visually see everything Kaplan was describing from the landscapes of Spain and Granada all the way down to the detail of the characters’ clothing and jewelry. It is by far one of the best parts about the novel.
The characters of this story, as I stated earlier, are so rich and layered. Santangel is one hell of a protagonist. There are so many layers and depths to him. You think you know how he is feeling and what kind of reaction he’ll have and then BAM you get hit with another layer. The character of Judith is one of the only people in the story who didn’t exist in real life. You’d never know it! Kaplan gives her a fantastic back story that rivals that of the actual real life stories of the other characters. That’s one of my favorite things about historical fiction, the way in which it ties fiction and non-fiction together. To know all along that this story has roots in reality makes it even more exciting.
I cannot recommend this book enough. I am so glad Mr. Kaplan got in touch with me to review this book!! He wrote a book for an adult mind and in doing so he has cemented his place in the literary world. I am so excited to read his future works, as he has definitely become one of my favorite authors.
5 out of 5 Stars
This is my first completed review for the historical fiction challenge.
By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
Other Press LLC (2010)
Paperback 320 pages
To read my interview with Mitchell James Kaplan click here
To follow Mitchell on Twitter click here
To check out Mitchell’s website click here
Other Press LLC has generously donated a copy of By Fire, By Water to giveaway on my blog. To enter leave a comment below or on my interview with Mitchell on what interests you about the novel. All comments must be made by January 31st. Winner will be picked at random and announced on February 1st. Good luck!!