I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile by C.W. Gortner
on July 2nd 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Spain
Source: the Publisher
No one believed I was destined for greatness.
So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.
Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly 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 she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.
As 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 the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.
From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the 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.
C.W. Gortner is well known for his historical fiction novels and I have been interested in reading his works for many years. This being my first one, I was impressed. His detailing of Isabella is almost sedulous with how painstaking it is. While he painted an extremely detailed portrait of Isabella, I’m not positive he painted her as accurately as she is known for being.
Isabella I of Castile was never expected to amount to anything yet she became known for greatness. Her struggle to claim her true right to the throne after her brother died at an early age is the initial focus of this novel. It also showcases first-hand the initial meeting of Isabella and her future-husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon.
Isabella is known for being a strong, independent queen who was able to reorganize governments and unburden the kingdom of debts that had been crushing for all citizens. She is also well known for her unwavering faith and while we saw moments of faith, I think the focus on her infatuation with a boy she knew for two days is a bit off-base. It’s also unfounded in history as her and her husband did not meet until they were married. The Queen’s Vow focuses heavily on their initial meeting and their subsequent separation after which Isabella pines over him because she’s unable to communicate with him.
I’ve found this to be a common trend with many historical fiction novels (the emphasis on the romance aspect whether it being grounded in history or not) and I can say it often leaves me disappointed. This is especially true when the main character is telling the story of a strong woman in a time when women were constantly impeded. What I also found disconcerting was her disassociation from the corruption and decay that was happening around her. While all this chaos was happening around her she sat silently, biting her tongue and digging her nails in her hands to maintain composure. While I believe this to be done as further proof of her unwavering faith, it actually made her to be a very bland and boring character.
While I wasn’t completely impressed with the representation of Isabella, I was for the most part pleased with the writing style of Gortner and his attention to detail. It’s clear that he researches his topics extensively, I just hope that he doesn’t take too much artistic license in all of his stories.