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The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile by C. W. Gortner: A Book Review

The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile Author: Gortner, C.W. Genre: Historical Fiction Release Date: June 12, 2012 Pages: 400 Publisher: Ballantine Books
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: "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. My Review: Queen Isabella is a fascinating sovereign queen of Spain in her own right. She is famous in history for sponsoring Christopher Columbus's expeditions to America, but she was also known for uniting a divided Spanish kingdom. She is often criticized for starting the Spanish Inquisition and for her violent crusade in driving the Muslims out of Granada. Gortner's biographical novel is told in first person by Queen Isabella herself. The author portrays the Spanish queen as both a human woman that is plagued by her inner conscience and her unrelenting faith. Gortner shows the motivations behind those actions that were criticized, starting from her early beginnings as an impoverished princess of Castile. Queen Isabella is a woman that is driven by her faith in God. Her early life as a princess is a difficult one, a path filled with danger at every turn. In the beginning of the novel, her life as a princess of Castile is shattered when her father dies, and her half-brother, Enrique IV, becomes King of Castile. She, along with her mother and younger brother, Alfonso, are forced to live in poverty and are barely acknowledged by her half-brother, the king. However, danger comes to both Isabella's and Alfonso's front door when a group of power hungry noblemen want to rebel against King Enrique and install Alfonso as king in his stead. Isabella finds herself in a dangerous situation, and must make the ultimate choice to be loyal to King Enrinque or Alfonso, whom she had always looked after. Isabella is a brave and intelligent woman. She chooses to be loyal to her king and country because she believes that it is God's will. However, King Enrique IV does not trust her, and instead tries to undermine Isabella's influence by using her as his pawn. He prevents her to marry her love, Prince Ferdinand of Aragon, and threatens to take away her succession to the Castilian crown. In order for Isabella to get both her kingdom and her prince, she must use her intelligence, her courage, and her unyielding faith in God. I was fascinated with Gortner's novel of Isabella. Isabella is a woman who believes that because God has granted her many gifts, her kingdom and her prince, tries to please God and to be His devoted servant in return for what God has done for her. Isabella was a woman of the early Renaissance era. Therefore, she followed the Catholic Church's doctrines and preachings that only Christians are granted entry into the kingdom of Heaven. Because of the Church's philosophy, Isabella believes that to be a true servant of God, she must purify Spain. To do that, she believes that she had to convert the Jews and drive the Muslims out of Spain. Overall, the author writes an in-depth psyche about Isabella and her actions. Isabella is a strong and complex woman whose actions are driven by a desire to do God's will. This novel is filled with court intrigue, suspense, and romance. This book will appeal to fans of Phillippa Gregory. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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


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