April 2, 2011

Review : By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

Title : By Fire, By Water
Author : Mitchell James Kaplan
Reading Dates : 8 Mar - 16 Mar 2011
By Fire, By Water
From goodreads :
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.

Book Review of By Fire, By Water.
By Fire, By Water was a rather interesting read. Through the story of Luis de Santangel, I’ve certainly learned more about the Spanish Inquisition. Prior to reading this book, I always had the impression that this was about the persecution of so-called witches. Now, I know it was more than that. But while I did expand my knowledge on history and the faiths practiced by the characters in the book, I can’t say that this is a book I’ll be coming back to often.

The characters in the book, whether they did exist in fact or not, just never seems all that accessible to me. Throughout the story, I kept wondering why any of them chose the paths they did. The choices and decisions the characters come up with, isn’t one I would have connected with what I’ve gleaned from their thoughts and actions before.

The thing that really caught my attention though was how spooky Torquemada was in the story. Even more terrifying than some of the monsters I’ve read about in what constitutes horror fiction. Whether intentional or not, his believe in the rightness of his actions had chills running down my back.

Still this is a book that is beautifully written and one that I believe history buffs would enjoy. Just not quite my cup of tea.

My conclusions :
  • Would I re-read the book ? Maybe, but not on a frequent basis.
  • Would I want to read the next book in the series if there were one? No, not really.
  • Would I want to own my personal copy if I didn’t already own it ? No, I think not.
  • Who would I recommend this too? This I think is more for historical fiction readers.
  • For those looking to read the book, would I recommend buying or borrowing the book? I think if you love historical fiction, you should buy it. The rest should just borrow it.

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