Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

Title: By Fire, By Water
Author: Mitchell James Kaplan
Publisher: Other Press
Publish Date: May 18, 2010
Source: I received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You're interested in the Spanish Inquisition.
  • You like lots of good characters.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "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."

My Two Cents:

The Spanish Inquisition is not something I know a whole lot about. I know what generally happened but I had forgotten a lot of the specifics. This book really helped to jog my memory. One thing that I love about historical fiction is that a lot of times, you feel like you're learning something. This book was definitely like that for me.

The two main characters are Luis, a chancellor who is being badgered by the evil Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor of Spain.

This is Torquemada. Not a nice looking guy...
The other main character is Judith, a Jewish silver seller, who because this is the time of the Inquisition has her own worries about what might happen to her and her family.  Remember that all of the Jews were thrust out of Spain by Torquemada (this actually happened in 1492, which is the year that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He also appears in this book).  Speaking of Christopher Colombus, it was nice to see more of what he was doing before making that trip that he was so famous for.

This book also featured King Ferdinand (Fernando) and Queen Isabella (Ysabel) presiding over the things that Torquemada was trying to do. Spain would have been fascinating at this point in time with so many different people all living together. On top of Christians and Jews, there was also a huge Muslim population in the area that is now Spain. The convergence of the characters in the book mirrors what was going on in Spain during the Inquisition. 


  1. I learned a lot from this book too and I thought it was really well written.

  2. I love historical fiction that teaches me something new. I will be reading this book for sure this year. I've heard nothing but good things about it.

  3. I've seen this one around, and I'm in love with the cover! I love learning new things whilst reading and this sounds like a terrific book! Definitely adding it to my TBR list :)


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