THE QUEEN'S VOW – C.W. Gortner
A Novel of Isabella of Castile
A Perfect 10
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-345-52396-9
June 2012
Historical Fiction

Castile, Spain – 1464 to 1492

Isabella was born into a turbulent time in Castile. Her father, Juan II, already had a male heir, Enrique, from his first marriage, and two children, Isabella and her younger brother Alfonso from his second marriage, to Isabel of Portugal. From the time her father died when she was four years old to when she officially became Queen of Castile, and then for most of her reign, Isabella fought daily for not only her survival, but that of her country.

After the death of her father, Isabella, her brother, and mother were taken to live far from the ruling seat of her elder half-brother Enrique. They lived in poverty until the day for years later the king decided to welcome Isabella and Alfonso back to court. Enrique, however, had an ulterior motive. Until his queen gave birth to a daughter years after their marriage, Alfonso was the infante—or heir to the throne. Despite the rumors that the child was not the king's, Enrique wanted his half brother and sister to come to court and acknowledge that baby Joanna was the new heir presumptive. This was the beginning of the precarious existence Isabella and Alfonso had to endure while under the watchful eyes of Enrique, who held his throne only with the help of several grandees who used his influence, and the queen who was desperate for all to think Joanna was, indeed, the king's child.

Told in Isabella's words, THE QUEEN'S VOW is a detailed account of the strength she had to muster daily to defend her rights as a true born daughter of Castile. She had to think quickly and logically in order to survive the intrigue that swirled around her for most of her childhood and well into her adult years. People she thought were reliable would later turn on her, and others staunchly supported her throughout her life.

Fernando of Aragon's entrance into Isabella's life gave her the strength to find support to eventually succeed her half-brother, after losing her whole brother to illness. Allying the two countries was the beginning of the new Spain, but the couple spent much of their married life riding off to battle, defending against the Portuguese as well as other factions within their country.

Isabella is well known for her sponsoring of Columbus (known in the book as Don Cristobal Colon), the conquest of Granada from the Moors who had held the area for eight hundred years, but also for the Inquisition, where Spanish Jews were killed for heresy. Whether the Inquisition was entirely her idea is debatable. The influence of the Catholic church on her life cannot be disputed. After all, her daughter, Catherine of Aragon, resolutely stood her ground when Henry Tudor began his relationship with Anne Boleyn.

THE QUEEN'S VOW is a beautifully written story of a woman who played a huge part in history. Exquisitely researched, with excellent characterizations of each person involved in Isabella's life, this was a delightful book to read. It is well deserving of a Perfect 10.

Jani Brooks