By Fire, By Water (a novel)
By Mitchell James Kaplan
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Summary: 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.
Review: Santangel is the chancellor to the court of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in a time when it is dangerous to be a converso, (convert from Judaism to Christianity specifically Catholicism) he is a third generation convert to Christianity through the Catholic church in a time when the Catholic Church still holds great sway in the population's everyday lives, homes, and personal convictions. Santangel must take desperate measures to try to protect those he holds most dear from the prying eyes of the new inquisition in Spain.
While researching the the truth about his past one of Santangel's intimate friend's learns the cost of being on the wrong side of religion in Catholic ruled Spain. Santangel mixes his family up in a plot that brings the head of the new inquisition to his door specifically Torquemada, who is a inquisitor investigating the murder of a high ranking official; this causes tragedies and inquiries to unfold that will change multiple families lives forever in numerous ways.
Judith a young Jewish woman living in Ferdinand and Isabella's kingdom find's the courage to help raise her nephew and take care of his grandfather, after tragedy strikes. Judith also learns how to do metal work and thus keeps the family business going in a time when women were expected to stay behind the scenes and shows remarkable courage in stepping forward in a country where there was prejudice against both her sex, and her religious beliefs. The twist and turns in her story alone could have made a book themselves.
Christopher Colon (Columbus would be the more well known name) is also interwoven throughout the story as a sailor and at one point asks the royals for a grant to go to the new world. He is also involved with some of the plotting / mapping that related to the Hebrew writing (on a map and scrolls) that was connected to Santangel's family being accused of heresy because of their converso background.
The entire novel fit together like a beautiful manuscript. I read it in a day, and could not put it down. I usually read books that have more female characters then male, however this book is easy to relate to, well put together and VERY easy to recommend. I love it.