In The Queen’s Vow by CW Gortner, Isabella of Castile was never meant to become queen. As a female royal, it was her duty to be married off as soon as possible and only for the benefit of her family or country. Fate intervenes, and she is thrust into the limelight as her half brother’s only heir. Isabella then defies her brother and custom by marrying her love, Fernando of Aragon, creating one of the ultimate power couples in history.
Let’s face it. Spanish history is not sexy. No one has done a series on cable TV about it. For the most part, when dealing with history, it’s always about King Phillip and his dealings with the Tudors or it’s an eye glazing account of the Spanish Inquisition. Gortner breathes life into this chapter of Spanish history. Any subject he touches becomes tangible and real to the reader. You feel as if you personally know these historical figures and you feel all of their emotions as the story plays out.
I honestly didn’t know much about Isabella. I had done some reading on my own about the Spanish Inquisition, her expulsion of the Jewish population in 1492, as well as her support of Christopher Columbus. Most authors I have read (either fiction or non), have made Isabella out to be cold and aloof, especially when her daughter Katherine is mentioned.
Gortner’s Isabella is none of that. She displays concern for her mentally ill mother. She worries about her children throughout the book. She shows unending compassion for her subjects. Gortner deftly handles the subject of Fernando and Isabella’s marriage. Throughout the book, Isabella struggles to obey her husband but at the same time remain the powerful queen she is. In one interesting scene, Isabella rides to meet a defeated Fernando and gives him a piece of her mind in front of what is left of their army. Isabella later apologizes to Fernando as his wife but she never apologizes for being a queen.
Another topic Gortner touches on is the Inquisition. Most books I have read have Isabella gleefully agreeing to this dark moment in history. Instead, Gortner shows a very reluctant ruler, who sees no reason to challenge the status quo with the conversos. In Gortner’s account. Isabella only agrees when she finds herself between a rock and a hard place. This was a great read for me. Gortner is fast becoming one of my go to authors for historical fiction. Fans of Phillipa Gregory should definitely read this book.
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About the Book:
Title: The Queen’s Vow
Author: C.W. Gortner
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Category: Historical Fiction
Source: Borrowed from the Library
NO ONE BELIEVED SHE WAS DESTINED FOR GREATNESS—until she became one of history’s most powerful and controversial queens.
Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she is thrust into danger. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, until, at age seventeen, she finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain.
Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man whom she has vowed to love yet is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragón.As together they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor, Torquemada, even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus.
But when a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, it will test Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny . . . .
From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.