Paperback: 284 pages
Published May 18, 2010
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 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.
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Praise for By Fire, By Water
“A heart wrenching tale told with skill…Mitchell James Kaplan has effectively written a powerful story that I will always remember.” — Marie Burton, The Burton Review
“[Kaplan’s] portrayal of this remarkable man and woman and their struggles to reconcile their past with their future amidst a rising storm of persecution humanizes his tale; and his evocation of a troubled Spain at the crossroads of its own past and future is equally well drawn.” — CW Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
“Recreates a historical moment of vast and far-reaching changes as well as the complex personality of Santángel, the high government official who placed his hopes for redemption far beyond his society’s horizons.” – Reform Judaism Magazine (Fall, 2010)
“Debut novelist Kaplan depicts a turbulent period in 15th-century Spain, focusing on the story of Aragon’s royal chancellor… Deftly moves through a complex web of personal relationships, religious zeal and political fervor.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Kaplan has done remarkable homework on the period and crafted a convincing and complex figure in Santángel in what is a naturally cinematic narrative and a fine debut.” — Publishers Weekly
“[A] brilliant and poetic novel of decent people in a world gone mad… Author Mitchell James Kaplan writes with breathtaking poetry and compassion… A rich story, a wonderful book, a deeply feeling writer.” – Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille