SheKnows book review: The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

Isabella of Castile is an important figure in Spanish history. C. W. Gortner makes her come alive in The Queen’s Vow .

The Queen's Vow

As the third child and only daughter of King John II of Castile, Isabella knows that she will eventually have to leave her beloved home country and marry for Castile’s glory. Upon her father’s death and her eldest half-brother Enrique’s ascension, though, Isabella finds herself essentially exiled from court with her brother Alfonso and her much-maligned mother, Isabella of Portugal. Unfortunately for Castile, Enrique is an even weaker and less effective king than his father was. Even worse, Enrique’s sole child is a girl who is widely believed to be illegitimate. Before long, Isabella’s brother and half-brother have embroiled Castile in a civil war in which Isabella is forced to take sides.

As the war rages and Castile becomes increasingly divided, Isabella realizes that she will have to fight to defend her own place in the kingdom. This is not easy to do as a woman alone in the 15th century, but Isabella has long admired her cousin Fernando, heir to the throne of the neighboring country of Aragon. With Fernando as her husband, she not only can claim her rights to Castile but also can unite the two countries.

Isabella of Castile is one of the most famous women in Spanish history, along with her daughters Katherine of Aragon (first wife of Henry VIII) and Juana of Castile (also known as Juana the Mad). Isabella and Fernando are best known for their support of Christopher Columbus’s expedition, the Spanish Inquisition and the Reconquista that drove the Moors from Spain. The real drama of Isabella’s story, though, is how she went from being third in line for the throne to ruling Castile in her own right, something very unusual for a woman.

C.W. Gortner is a master of historical fiction featuring strong royal women. His previous subjects include Catherine de Medici and Isabella’s daughter Juana of Castile. As in his previous books, Gortner infuses The Queen’s Vow with rich historical detail and characters that pop out of the past to be just as vibrant today as they were when they lived more than five centuries ago. Whether you’re a stickler for historical detail or a sucker for a great story, The Queen’s Vow has something for you.

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