Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review & GIVEAWAY: By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2 (Loved)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Book Source: I received this book from the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from publisher: Luis de Santangel, chancellor to the court and lifelong friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As Inquisitor General Tomas de Torquemada’s power and influence over Queen Isabel grow, so does the brutality of the Spanish Church and the paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santangel takes retribution into his own hands, though the risk is great. Santangel is from a family of converses, and his Jewish heritage makes him a target. Soon, he finds himself implicated in the murder of the first Chief Inquisitor of Aragon and in possession of a mysterious text that has brought death and discrimination to Jews for centuries.

As he 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: The Spanish Inquisition that took place in the late 15th century is a historical subject that I wasn’t too familiar with before I devoured Kaplan’s book. It really described the three main religions during this era( Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) in such great detail, especially Christianity and Judaism. 

By Fire, By Water is not a light read; however, it’s not impossible. One of the many reasons why I enjoyed this book so much was that it actually made me think. The story is mainly focused on Luis de Santángel, King Ferdinand’s chancellor, and his journey with trying to answer questions about his Jewish ancestry that he will later regret because not only does it lead to his own downfall, but it also causes him to lose some very important people in his life. 

Kaplan did an outstanding job telling both sides of the story for both the Christians and the Jews. Before I read this book I knew little to nothing about the Jewish religion and found it to be a major eye opener to how they were treated back then. Everyone is familiar with the Jewish Holocaust and how the Jews were treated like animals instead of human beings. Well unfortunately, it was not so different for them back then either. 
It’s obvious that Kaplan really researched this era and the Spanish Inquisition in order to make it so captivating. This was a great read that really opened my eyes to other religions and what they had to go through. I would recommend this book to any historical fiction reader. It’s a definite must read.

If you would like chance to read this book the publicist is giving away TWO copies of Mitchell James Kaplan’s book open to the US only and is open until February 5th!

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

    To enter, please leave a comment below and include your name and email address.
     For +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, or tweeting.  You can use the SHARE buttons below and please include the link in the comment section below
     You can also get +1 additional entry by being a new follower of my blog.


  1. Please don't enter me in the contest, as I'm waiting on a review copy of my own to arrive. But I'm quite excited to read it - thanks for the great review!

  2. Sounds like a fascinating topic. I can't wait to get a copy!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I just recently stumbled upon the conversas concept in another historical novel (dealing mainly with Italy) but it has piqued my curiosity to learn more about the Spanish Inquisition which I know very little. I would love to be entered into the contest.

  5. I would love to win.
    I am a new follower.
    I tweeted!/BrokenTeepee/status/28198796777230336
    I posted to facebook

    thank you
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  6. I've been so excited to read this, thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

    jmartinez0415 [at] gmail [dot] com

    I'm also a new follower of your blog on GFC (Jessica M.)

  7. Great review! I love a book that makes you think and is heavy but enjoyable at the same time.

    No need to enter me, as I already have a copy, but I'm so glad you stopped by my blog to let me know about your giveaway. Looks like we have similar reading tastes, so I'm sure I'll be a more frequent visitor!

  8. You know I won this from another blog, sent my physical address and never recieved it.

    The same thing happened when I won Robert Parry's "The Virgin and the Crab" and Ms. Delors herself promised to send me a copy of "For The King" never came.

    The only author who took it upon herself to follow up on a promised book was Vanitha Sankaran who, just when I had given up, sent me her great book, "Watermark".

    These were all books I was so excited to read I never thought for a minute that they would let me down. It's just the idea, after usually plugging, their books, that they could have disregard for their readers.

    So I'm not entering this giveaway or any others. I might be missing great reading but I don't care anymore. annfesATyahooDOTcom

  9. Please put me in twice - new follower! :)

    This book (and your blog) look really interesting, so I'm very excited to have stumbled across you (thanks to a google search for the Timeline of Britain's Kings & Queens.

    Also, sharing this on Twitter! (

    Amanda Fails

  10. I would love to read this book. I it has been on my list for a bit now, and I really need to get it into my home so that I do indeed remember to read it.

    I tweeted about the giveaway.!/ibeeeg/status/31043510165577728

    I am now a follower of your blog.


  11. A message for 'Soft Fuzzy Sweater.'
    I am sorry to hear that you did not receive your copy of Virgin and the Crab from a giveaway competition. Could you tell me where and what competition it was, and I will look into it for you? I have certainly always honoured any giveaway that I have been associated with.
    Robert Parry (author, Virgin and the Crab)

  12. Oh shoot, I give in! I WANT this book so bad!

    My grandmother told me my ancestors were "conversos" so I am intrigued by the plight and history of the Spanish Jews. I was raised Catholic so I heard the whitewashed versions (lies?) and was shocked when I learned the truth. annfesATyahooDOTcom

  13. Taylor,
    You can REMOVE my name from the pot... just won it from another site. Thanks again, though, for the chance! Good luck to all.
    OreAnnie AT yahoo DOT com

  14. Ok thanks Kate for letting me know! I'm glad you won it! Happy reading :)