Skip to main content

Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey: A Book Review

Isabella: The Warrior Queen
Author: Kirstin Downey
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 544
Source:Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: An engrossing and revolutionary biography of Isabella of Castile, the controversial Queen of Spain who sponsored Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World, established the Spanish Inquisition, and became one of the most influential female rulers in history.

     Born at a time when Christianity was dying out and the Ottoman Empire was aggressively expanding, Isabella was inspired in her youth by tales of Joan of Arc, a devout young woman who unified her people and led them to victory against foreign invaders. In 1474, when most women were almost powerless, twenty-three-year-old Isabella defied a hostile brother and a mercurial husband to seize control of Castile and León. Her subsequent feats were legendary. She ended a twenty-four-generation struggle between Muslims and Christians, forcing North African invaders back over the Mediterranean Sea. She laid the foundation for a unified Spain. She sponsored Columbus's trip to the Indies and negotiated Spanish control over much of the New World with the help of Rodrigo Borgia, the infamous Pope Alexander VI. She also annihilated all who stood against her by establishing a bloody religious Inquisition that would darken Spain's reputation for centuries. Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world, in which millions of people in two hemispheres speak Spanish and practice Catholicism. Yet history has all but forgotten Isabella's influence, due to hundreds of years of misreporting that often attributed her accomplishments to Ferdinand, the bold and philandering husband she adored. Using new scholarship, Downey's luminous biography tells the story of this brilliant, fervent, forgotten woman, the faith that propelled her through life, and the land of ancient conflicts and intrigue she brought under her command.


     My review: Queen Isabella is one of the early pioneers of Spanish global dominance in the Americas. She helped strengthen the country’s political discord, and helped Spain to be viewed as a nation to be admired by her contemporaries. She is also the ancestor of many future descendants of the royal families in Europe. Thus, Isabella is one of the most important figures in Spanish history because of the contributions that she made in her reign.

     I've always been fascinated with Queen Isabella of Spain, and this book did not disappoint. The story of how she got to the Spanish throne was equally fascinating. She was the most unlikely inheritor, and her birth held no significance because she had two brothers. However, Queen Isabella was a political genius and she rose to the throne by herself, and not with her husband Ferdinand, who was mad at her because she took it without notifying him about it. To save her marriage, she agreed to let Ferdinand write his name first on all the political documents, which made her look insignificant to history. Therefore, all the recognition of Spain’s accomplishments were given to Ferdinand, when in fact, it was actually Isabella that deserved the credit.

     The author shows that Isabella was a loving mother. She tried to give her daughters an education that she herself lacked. And even though it was essential that daughters had to be  arranged marriages for the good of Spain, she at least found them prospective bridegrooms who were handsome and around their age so that the daughters could have a happy and successful marriage. Isabella also did not want her daughters to leave and wanted them to stay by her side, and tried everything she could to delay them from going. When they finally left, she missed them greatly.

     Overall, this biography shows that Isabella is a strong ruler, and was successful in a world that was dominated by men. The fact that she succeeded during her reign shocked many of her contemporaries that a woman could rule effectively. The author's writing was very engaging.The description of Isabella's religious views, and her reasoning with the Inquisition I found a little dry. However, I felt that it was important because it gives us an understanding of why Isabella made ruthless actions, for example her expulsion of the Moors in Granada, the Spanish Inquisition, and the treatment of the Native Americans in the American colonies. The book is not written in chronological order and focuses on the controversial topics of her reign, but this book is a very comprehensive read and is easy to understand for the general reader. This biography is very feminist, and I recommend this biography to anyone interested in seeing  Queen Isabella in a different light.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki: A Book Review

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post Author: Allison Pataki Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Ballantine Release Date: February 15, 2022 Pages: 381 Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis: Mrs. Post, the President and First Lady are here to see you. . . . So begins another average evening for Marjorie Merriweather Post. Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got. From crawling through Moscow warehouses to rescue the Tsar’s treasures to outrunning the Nazis in London, from serving the homeless of the Great Depression to entertaining Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Hollywood’s biggest stars, Marjorie Merriweath

The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters #1) by Lucinda Riley: A Book Review

The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters #1) Author: Lucinda Riley Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Publisher: Atria Release Date: 2015 Pages: 463 Source: My State Public Library Synopsis: Maia D’Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, “Atlantis”—a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva—having been told that their beloved father, who adopted them all as babies, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalizing clue to her true heritage—a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of her story and its beginnings. Eighty years earlier in Rio’s Belle Epoque of the 1920s, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into the aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is devising plans for an enormous statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to

Blog Tour: Peccadillo at the Palace (An Annie Oakley Mystery #2) by Kari Bovee: A Book Review

  Join us for this tour from Jan 10 to Feb 4 ,  2022 ! Book Details: Book Title : Peccadillo at the Palace (An Annie Oakley Mystery) by Kari Bovee Category :  Adult Fiction (18 + yrs), 332 pages Length: 9 hours, 52 minutes Genre :  Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery Publisher :  Bosque Publishing Release date:    April 2020 ​ Formats available for review : audiobook (audible download), MOBI (for kindle), EPUB, PDF) Tour dates : Jan 10 to Feb 4, 2022 Content Rating :  PG +M for mature themes, mild swearing Book Description:      She’s outgunned her opponents at every turn, but will it be enough to solve a royal case of murder? Annie Oakley can’t believe her good fortune at an imperial invitation.      Queen Victoria wants Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to perform for her Golden Jubilee. But during the voyage to England, a royal escort is murdered and the gun-slinging star finds herself at the center of an assassination plot against the crown.      Determined to catc