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Reviewed by Colleen Turner
A woman of many contradictions, Isabella of Castile is one of the most formidable and powerful queens in history. Under her rule Spain became a united country and learning and exploration flourished. Her pious reign also brought about the Spanish Inquisition, which saw the Jews of Spain exiled or killed. So was she a saint or a villain? The Queen’s Vow lets Isabella tell her own story and what we find is a woman of faith, love and an endless devotion who wanted to ensure that her beloved Castile thrived in the ever expanding world around them.
Never expected to become queen of Castile, Isabella is raised away from the court of her half brother, King Enrique. Growing up devout and proper, she is shocked when she is called to the court of Castile and finds a viper’s nest of degradation and sin. A feckless ruler, Enrique is dominated by his grandees and married to a faithless, vicious queen. Determined to remain loyal to the King that was anointed by God, Isabella strives to fight against the advisors who seek to pit her against Enrique and use her as a pawn for their own ends. But when Isabella’s younger brother, Alfonso, is poisoned she becomes the tenuous heir to Castile and she has no choice but to fight for her right to rule after Enrique.
As she battles against the plans to marry her off to Portugal and rob her of her claims. she decides to take her life into her own hands and marry the prince she hopes can not only secure her place on the throne but will be a caring and equitable husband: Fernando, prince of Aragon. Against her brother’s wishes Isabella and Fernando are married and thereby form a bond that brings about not only a deep and everlasting love but an unstoppable duo who seek to unite their lands and drive out the infidels.
When Enrique dies and Isabella becomes queen, her troubles are far from over. Plots to usurp her, wars to defend her lands and continued attempts to improve the finances, fealty and faith of her country continue to plague her. While these struggles go on, Isabella and Fernando work as one, raising a family and always staying true to their goals and beliefs. As joint rulers of their kingdom and beloved by God, their bidding will be done. Isabella has found her true place on her throne and she will stop at nothing to see her aspirations attained.
The Queen’s Vow is what all historical fiction should aspire to. Vivid in period details and full of action, adventure and romance it can be hard to remember that you are not actually experiencing the goings on but simply reading it. The depiction of Isabella as such an incredibly complicated woman is easy to understand when you realize what she had to go through just to secure what was rightfully hers and to do what she thought was necessary for her God, her husband and her people.
Isabella is not only a queen but a dutiful wife, a caring mother, a warrior, a defender of her faith and an advocate for her subjects. It would take an incredibly strong, brave woman to be able to do all that she did in the time period she lived in and she is shown as doing so with grace, courage, fairness and tenacity unlike anyone else surrounding her. It is hard not to love her even when her ultimate choices lead to devastating consequences for others as she is depicted as a woman who does not take her choices lightly and truly searches her soul for the right answer for all.
If you enjoy historical fiction you would be remiss not to read this book. Even if you usually do not read this genre there really is something for just about anyone to enjoy. I, for one, will be running out to read more about Isabella, Fernando and their family as well as more by Mr. Gortner, who might just be my new favorite author.
Also by C.W. Gortner: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.a Rafflecopter giveaway