By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
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. (publisher)
Luis de Santángel is chancellor to King Fernando (Ferdinand) of Aragon but he is also a third generation Christian, converso, but when the Spanish Inquisition starts in full force it’s not safe to have Jewish connections. At the same time Luis grows curious about his Jewish heritage and starts to see theologian in secret but soon catches the eyes of inquisitor and soon finds out that he or his family isn’t safe.
We also hear the story of Judith, a Jewish silversmith, who catches Luis’ eyes. Luis falls in love with her but is he willing to give up everything for her?
I’m not very familiar with Spanish Inquisition or Jewish religion and the little I know about Inquisition comes from reading Katherine of Aragon’s childhood. It is not a pleasant subject giving the worst example of humanity but it’s fascinating in a horrible way.
By Fire, By Water is certainly very thought provoking and well researched. While the books has lot of religious themes and has theological discussions it manages to not sound preachy.
It’s not action packed but gives one man’s journey while trying to find who he is and remaining true to himself.
The only minor problem I had was with the time. I wish it would have been stated better how much time had went on or mentioned on what year was going on.
What a great debut from Kaplan! I truly enjoyed this and couldn’t put it down.Can’t wait to read more from this author!
Published: Other Press (2010)
Source: from author for review