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By Fire, by Water

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By Fire, by Water Cover

ISBN13: 9781590513521
ISBN10: 1590513525
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"Kaplan, a screenwriter, sets his debut novel in 15-century Spain, amid the Inquisition, the attempt to unify the kingdoms of Spain under Christian rule, and the voyage of Christopher Columbus to what the seaman expects will be the Indies. The action centers on the historical figure of Luis de Santngel, chancellor to the king of Aragon and a converso, a Jewish convert to Christianity at a time when the Inquisition sought to repress 'judaizing.' Santngel is friend and financier of Columbus, surviving parent of young Gabriel, and more curious than is prudent about his Jewish heritage. While he learns about Judaism in clandestine meetings, a parallel story unfolds, centering on Judith Migdal, a beautiful Jewish woman who learns to become a silversmith in Granada, located in the last part of Spain under Muslim rule. Santngel's attraction to Judith grows, even as the Inquisition closes in and the prospect of another world to the West tantalizes. Kaplan has done remarkable homework on the period and crafted a convincing and complex figure in Santngel in what is a naturally cinematic narrative and a fine debut." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

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About the Author

Mitchell James Kaplan has lived and worked primarily in Paris and Los Angeles as a translator, screenwriter, and script consultant. Currently, he resides in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two children. This is his first novel.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Wendy Robards, July 12, 2010 (view all comments by Wendy Robards)
Mitchell James Kaplan’s debut novel is set in fifteenth century Spain during the time of the New Inquisition when King Fernando and Queen Ysabel were waging war and expelling all Jews from Spain. This period is also remembered for Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) and his discovery of the Western Hemisphere. Kaplan has taken all of these events and created an historical novel of depth, passion and faith which held me spellbound.

Luis de Santangel, a converso (the Spanish term which designates a person whose parents or grandparents abandoned their Jewish faith and embraced Christianity…usually under duress) and chancellor to the throne, takes center stage in By Fire, By Water. Horrified by what the Inquisition is doing, Luis finds himself deeply conflicted by his Christian faith. He longs to understand the differences between the Jewish and Christian beliefs. This struggle leads him to engage in secret meetings with a Jewish scribe and several others to learn more about the faith his family abandoned.

When a close friend is arrested and dies, Luis becomes enraged at a system that punishes those who dare question the edicts and beliefs of the Church. His choice to silence the Chief Inquisitor of Aragon (Pedro de Arbues) puts his life and the lives of his family in danger.

A parallel story – that of a Jewish silversmith who is raising her orphaned nephew in the endangered city of Granada – is seamlessly inserted into the novel. Judith Migdal is a strong, inspiring character…and it is no surprise when her path crosses Luis’ as the Spanish war machine grinds ever closer to her home.

By Fire, By Water closely follows the historical record, but it is also very much a novel…bringing to life the streets of fifteenth century Spain, the horrors of the Inquisition (Kaplan does not spare readers the brutal torture endured by those arrested), and the drama of the time period when new lands were being discovered by sea exploration.

Big, passionate, brilliantly written, full of court intrigue and religious politics, I loved this novel. I read the last half of the book in one afternoon, unable to lay it aside until I knew what would happen. Kaplan’s descriptions are gorgeous. He effortlessly transports the reader into the past. He also brings forth the questions of the time: What were the motivations of King Fernando and Queen Ysabel? Were they simply religious fanatics, or were financial considerations the primary reason for supporting the Inquisition and the ultimate expulsion of the Jews from Spain?

Kaplan writes in his author’s note at the end of the book:

"The purpose of a historical novel is to locate and reveal the dramatic core of history."

If that is the purpose, then I would congratulate Kaplan on achieving it. By Fire, By Water is a must read for historical fiction fans, especially those interested in fifteenth century Spain.

Highly recommended.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781590513521
Author:
Kaplan, Mitchell
Publisher:
Other Press (NY)
Author:
Kaplan, Mitchell James
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Spain History 711-1516.
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20100631
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.42x5.80x1.05 in. .78 lbs.

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By Fire, by Water Used Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages Other Press - English 9781590513521 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Kaplan, a screenwriter, sets his debut novel in 15-century Spain, amid the Inquisition, the attempt to unify the kingdoms of Spain under Christian rule, and the voyage of Christopher Columbus to what the seaman expects will be the Indies. The action centers on the historical figure of Luis de Santngel, chancellor to the king of Aragon and a converso, a Jewish convert to Christianity at a time when the Inquisition sought to repress 'judaizing.' Santngel is friend and financier of Columbus, surviving parent of young Gabriel, and more curious than is prudent about his Jewish heritage. While he learns about Judaism in clandestine meetings, a parallel story unfolds, centering on Judith Migdal, a beautiful Jewish woman who learns to become a silversmith in Granada, located in the last part of Spain under Muslim rule. Santngel's attraction to Judith grows, even as the Inquisition closes in and the prospect of another world to the West tantalizes. Kaplan has done remarkable homework on the period and crafted a convincing and complex figure in Santngel in what is a naturally cinematic narrative and a fine debut." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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