Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fourty-two: By Fire By Water - Mitchell James Kaplan

**Full Disclosure: Received this book via a First Author event at ALA Annual Conference in June**

Set in 15th century Spain, By Fire By Water gives a full examination of the crisis of faith at the hear of the Spanish Inquisition. Told from the perspective of the conversos who are torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety.

Luis de Santangel, chancellor to the court in Aragon, starts to meet with a priest and one of his aides in secret debating the philosophies of different religions.  The aide, who is a practicing Jew, gets questioned by the Chief Inquisitor of Aragon.  Under pressure he gives up information about the meetings causing Luis and the priest to plot and kill the Inquistor.  From the moment of the murder, Luis and his son Gabriel are on the run.  Luis leaves Gabriel with his brother Estefan and moves on to be with the King who is fighting a war against the Muslims.

Gabriel and Estefan get picked up by the Grand Inquistor.  Estefan ends up being tortured and put in jail.  Gabriel decides to become a priest a "confess" his "sins".  Luis is forced to give up any relationship with either of them. 

Judith, a Jew living in Grenada, learns the silver making trade after her brother and wife die trying to escape religious persecution. Levi, their son, and Naomi's father Baba Shlomo live with Judith.  Her friend Dina teaches her languages and how to read and write.  Luis meets Judith one night and is immediately attracted to her.  She sets up a trade with Chris Colon (Christopher Columbus) to exchange her silver for supplies. 

Luis ends up having to call in a favor with the King to escape the investigations of the Inquistor.  Luis ends up fiancing Chris Colon's exploration to the new world.  At the end of the book he is left with no family or lover, just a lifetime of service to the court.

I enjoyed this book because it told the Christopher Columbus story from a different angle.  Plus the book really challenged my views on different religions and brought the Spanish Inquisition alive.  It's easy to forget that being able to worship in any means that you want is a freedom that took many years in coming.  And a freedom that not everyone is able to enjoy.  I picked up this book on a whim after listening to Mitchell speak at the conference.  While it wasn't the one of the first books from the conference that I read, I will say its one of the better ARC that I picked up from the conference.

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