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The Last Queen: A Novel by C.W. Gortner: A Book Review

The Last Queen: A Novel
Author: C.W. Gortner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2009
Pages: 400
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: In This Stunning Novel, C.W. Gortner Brings To Life Juana of Castile, the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who would become the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country's throne. Along the way, Gortner takes the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England.

     Born amid her parents' ruthless struggle to unify and strengthen their kingdom, Juana, at the age of sixteen, is sent to wed Phillip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her dashing young husband, and at first she is content with her children and her married life. But when tragedy strikes and she becomes heir to the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it costs her everything.


     My Review: Juana, the daughter of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, has been known in history as the mad queen. Her nickname in history is Joan the Mad. She is best known as the Spanish princess, who was so in love and possessive of her husband, that when he died, she refused to be parted from his dead corpse, accompanying his coffin to Granada and forcing it to remain open so that all eyes could look upon his decaying corpse, traveling by night because she was so jealous that other women might be tempted by his "beauty" if they ever catch of glimpse of her beloved husband. Her mad plans were stopped when her father comes to rescue to save Spain. Both her father and son rule in her stead because Juana is so mad that she is incapable of ruling.


     However, in Gortner's The Last Queen, Juana narrates the novel herself, and she gives the readers her side of the story. Contrary to popular belief of Juana, Juana is not a mad queen. Instead, she aspires to be an intelligent and capable ruler like her mother. However, because she is a woman, she is not taken seriously. She is betrayed by her husband, her father, and even her son, who wants the kingdom of Castile for themselves. In order to gain the throne, they propagandized Juana's "madness" to support their case. Juana must use her wits and her courage to fight for her kingdom.

     I was intrigued by Gortner's portrayal of Juana. Juana is at first a naive woman, who is infatuated by her husband. Over time, Juana becomes a self-assured woman of intelligence and courage. Juana is both a victim and an obstacle to the ambitious men in her life. We, readers, will grieve as she suffers betrayal after betrayal from those who were closest to her. She is a likable heroine, and readers will want her to succeed.

     Overall, this novel portrays a different perspective to the story of Juana. This novel is full of passion, betrayal, and suspense. This novel is also a psychological thriller, for not only is a battle for the Spanish throne, but a battle where Juana has to prove her sanity. This book is a great sequel to The Queen's Vow, which is about Juana's mother, Queen Isabella of Castile.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

This the author's official book trailer of The Last Queen:

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