Guest Post + 5 book giveaway! By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

Passages to the Past is pleased to bring you a guest post by Michell James Kaplan, author of the new novel By Fire, By Water.  Stay tuned for giveaway information at the bottom of this post.  Take it away Mitchell....

Introduction:  By Fire, By Water depicts the end of an eight-hundred year era in Spain, the era known as convivencia. It may be helpful, as background, to see all that was achieved during that era, and to get a sense for all that Spain lost (as well as what she gained) through the process of “unification.”


The term convivencia (“coexistence”) refers to the period when Christians, Jews, and Muslims shared rulership of the Iberian Peninsula. This period was one of the most fruitful and significant in European cultural history. However, forces of intolerance, blame, and superstition continued to vie against the forces that promoted cultural exchange and expansion. Major dates include:

Synagogue, Toledo
711  Islamic Berbers and Arabs (the “Moors”) invade Spain from North Africa. The caliphate they create is far more tolerant than the Christian Visigoth society they conquer.

10th and 11th centuries  Cordova and Toledo are the most prominent and sophisticated cities in Europe, producing important scholars, poets, scientists, merchants, and philosophers. Islamic-Spanish architecture, harmonizing complex geometries, reaches its zenith. An extraordinary example of cross-cultural literary wealth, the poetic form called muwashaha, calls for both Latin and Classical Arabic versification within the same poem.

1066  The crucifixion of the Jewish vizier of Granada, and the subsequent massacre of Jews throughout Granada, mark the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Judaism in Spain.

12th century  The Muslim Averroes and the Jewish Maimonides reintroduce Aristotelian reasoning to Europe, foreshadowing Aquinas and ultimately the Renaissance.

1118  Alfonso I of Aragon reconquers Saragossa and its stunning fortresscastle, the Aljaferia, future home of King Ferdinand.
Aljaferia Palaca, Saragossa
13th century  The Islamic presence in Spain, under pressure from Christian forces, retreats to the Emirate of Granada, at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

1236  Ferdinand III of Castile reconquers Cordova.

Late 14th century  Anti-Jewish riots throughout Christian Spain lead to forced conversions and deaths.

Late 15th century  By the late fifteenth century, the end of convivencia is in sight as Spain retreats into a tragic, monolithic parody of its imagined past. The events listed below, as witnessed by Luis de Santángel, the chancellor of Aragon, form the historical background of By Fire, By Water:

October 19, 1469  Marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.

September 15, 1485  Murder of Pedro de Arbues, first chief inquisitor of the kingdom of Aragon.

August 18, 1487  Auto-da-fé (religious trial) in Saragossa, the capital of Aragon, including members of the chancellor’s family.

January 2, 1492  Fall of the Emirate of Granada, the last Islamic political entity in Western Europe.

March 31, 1492  Expulsion Edict, aka the Alhambra Decree, ordering all Jews to depart from Spain, leaving their wealth and possessions behind.

July 31, 1492  Final date for all Jews to quit Spain.

August 3, 1492  Christopher Columbus’s ships depart on a voyage of discovery.

October 12, 1492  Columbus lands in the present-day Bahamas.
Columbus at the Royal Court of Spain by V. Brozik 1884

Thank you to Mitchell for stopping by and writing such an interesting post!!!  And now on to the giveaway, of which PTTP has been given FIVE copies of By Fire, By Water to giveaway!

SYNOPSIS:  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.


- To enter, please leave a comment and include your email
- Only one entry per person
- Giveaway is open to US and Canada entries ONLY (sorry to my int'l readers)
- Giveaway ends on June 2nd

Good Luck to you all!



  1. EEP! I would LOVE to win this book! It's on my TBR!


  2. Sounds great...would love to read. Thanks!


  3. Ooh! I am so super excited about this book, and have been seeing it all over the place! Please do enter me in your awesome giveaway!!


  4. Oh yes! Sign me up! Thanks for the great giveaway!


  5. Would love to be entered. Many thanks for the very informative post! :)

    rubs.escalona [at]

  6. I'd like to enter!


  7. I have heard great things about this book.
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

  8. Thanks for the giveaway!

  9. OOHH!! Pick me, pick me! I would love to read this.

  10. This is one of those books I've been looking forward to for several weeks already. :)


  11. I would love to win a copy of this one Amy!
    joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

  12. I've been excited about this book! Would love to enter.

    Lisa.2713 at gmail dot com

  13. Great post, great sounding book. I'm always amazed by how much further advanced the Moors seemed to be - more tolerant, more forward thinking, actually more 'civilized'. Thanks for the great giveaway.

  14. This one sounds so interesting.
    please enter me.
    thank you
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  15. First of all, don't enter me -- have it and am starting it today! The timeline is very interesting... notice the exact year Normandy conquered England there was strife in Spain... that is also a year of Halley's comet which so many people thought auspicious. There are so many words I'm not familiar with. Must start reading!

  16. I would love to win this book. I would to learn more about Spain at this time seeing how much I have read about England, Wales, and Scotland.
    Thank you for the chance to win
    Gail Miller

  17. Very interesting note on Halley's much to remember and so much to learn. Who needs drama when we have history to entertain us! Great post and sounds like an intense read. Thanks Amy for hosting another great read.

  18. This book's on my wishlist! I'd love to win one!

  19. Thank you for entering me. =)

    tiredwkids at live dot com

  20. This sounds loke a great giveaway,
    please enter me!

  21. Sounds like a wonderful book. Please enter me and thank you for the giveaway.

    debraldufek AT hotmail DOT com

  22. Would love to win this one!

  23. this looks awesome thanks for the giveaway minsthins at optonline dot net

  24. I would like to be entered, sounds like an interesting book!


  25. I have read other guest post by Mitchell, and each one I read is very interesting. I am learning many new things which is making my interest in the book grow. I love historical fiction, and one of the things that I love most is the effort, and time authors must put into *knowing* their historical information. In other words, the research needed for good historical novels is incredibly impressive.

    I would love to win this book!


  26. This is a fabulous post, and what a great chance to win this book! Thanks.

    Nunezbella at hotmail dotcom

  27. Very interesting post! History is so fascinating to me. Would love to read this book. Thanks for the chance!


  28. Sounds like an awesome book. Please enter me for it!!

    I follow on gfc

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

  29. Thanks for the chance!
    six_one_nine_girlie86 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  30. The more I read about this book and the history behind it, the more I want to read it. So many truly horrific things have been done in the name of religion. Christianity is as guilt or guilty as any other. They destroyed a thriving culture in Spain and forced 2 vibrant peoples from the land. As with many other such actions, greed and power had more to do with it all than religion. Thank you for hosting the giveaway.

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

  31. yes please, I would love to read this book


  32. This is on my summer read list I would love to read this!

  33. Have been seeing this book everywhere and would love to win!

  34. This period in history is one of my favorites, and especially so when it deals with Spain. I recently read a novel by Phillippa Gregory about Catherine (Catalina) of Aragon and her parents, Isabella and Ferdinand. This would give me even more insight to their stories.
    Please enter me in the contest. Would love to read this book.
    Marilyn Celeste Morris

  35. Wow, this sounds like such a good book. Please enter me in the giveaway!

  36. Thanks for this wonderful giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  37. No need to enter me.

    What an amazing timeline! I never realized Spain went through so many changes throughout it's history. We always read about England and France, but never Spain, which is odd since it was one of the big three back then.
    Great informative post.

  38. I would love to enter!


  39. please count me in...thanks :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  40. I love the time period. This sounds like a fantastic book. Thanks for the chance


  41. What a great post! Now I really want to win this!

    madamerkf at aol dot com

  42. Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the giveaway.
    eswright18 at gmail dot com

  43. This looks fascinating! Please enter me!

    bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

  44. Wonderful post! I'd love to read more - thanks for the chance to win a copy!

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  45. As a history teacher I know the basics of the convivencia, but reading about it through a fictionalized point of view makes it all so much more real! I'd love to win!

  46. Oooo, please enter me for this! I'd love to read it.


  47. This is a very nicely written post. I would love to read this book. Please enter me for this giveaway.


  48. I don't think I have ever had the urge to read a book about Columbus, until now. Thanks for the opportunity!

    lovejessicamarie (@) gmail (.) com

    ps. you probably don't remember me, but I just wanted to say hello! I am trying to get back into the swing of blogging ;) and have missed your blog dearly!

  49. This sounds like a fascinating read. Please enter me in the giveaway. Thank you!


  50. Hearing great things about this one! Please count me in. Thank you!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  51. I'd love to enter Amy. Thanks.
    bj19662001 (at) yahoo (dot) ca

  52. This book sounds very interesting, and I would love to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!


  53. The cover is really quite beautiful, isn't it? :)

  54. Hey there,
    Useful info if one is interested in writing a historical. Me I just love reading them and sometimes an author will throw a shapeshifter into the mix and I really like that. Congrats on the latest release.


  55. Sounds fascinating! I'm currently studying Juana's story, so this would be a great follow up! Thank you for having this contest and for writing about such a unique and interesting story!


  56. thanks for the chance to win!
    mannasweeps (at) gmail DOT com

  57. I find the cover especially intriguing. Please enter me in the giveaway.


  58. This sounds like a delightful book, thank you for allowing me the chance to win a copy.

    knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

  59. SOunds great! Hope I;m not too ate for the giveaway



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