For many of us, the only information we know about Queen Isabella of Spain is that she commissioned Columbus to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to reach India. Besides this, her reign and accomplishments have been slowly forgotten over the years. C. W. Gortner aims to change that in his novel The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile. In this sweeping historical fiction work, Gortner lays out Isabella’s life for inspection and highlights her greatest triumphs and tribulations for all to see.
We begin with Isabella in her early years, when she is taken from her mother’s home and all that she knows and holds dear, to the home of her half-brother, Enrique, the King of Spain. Enrique is married to Joan of Portugal, who is known for her scandalous dress and manner. Although she does not want any part of the lives of Enrique and Joan, she is unwittingly thrown into a plot to dethrone Enrique, and is soon accused of treason and imprisoned. She is caught between what she believes to be the right course of action and what she must do to protect herself. She must change loyalties constantly, and in this ever-changing and dangerous world the only thing she truly wants is to marry her true love, Fernando, prince of Aragon. She is finally able to do so after successfully avoiding the other marriage proposals that are set up for her by Enrique. After her marriage to Fernando, they are both constantly tested as they try to unite Spain despite the many obstacles in their path. Will their marriage last? Will Isabella be able to be the monarch she knows that she can be?
Historical fiction can sometimes be a tricky genre to read when it’s about history that’s difficult to research. What I mean by that is the further back in history that you travel, the harder it is to find primary sources that can give you a complete picture of what that time was like. You have to become adept at filling in the gaps in an accurate and entertaining manner for your readers. Gortner clearly does this in The Queen’s Vow showing not only his depth and accuracy as a historian, but his imaginative and creative side as an author.
Gortner’s vision of who Isabella was is a beautiful rendition, one I think Isabella herself would be proud of. It’s written in a beautiful manner, weaving the plot lines of Isabella and those surrounding her into one seamless timeline. Some historical fiction novels can be overly heavy in their vast number of characters that are present, making it hard to keep track of all the plot lines that exist simultaneously. Fortunately, The Queen’s Vow does not have this problem, as Gortner focuses on Isabella and keeps the plot moving by introducing other characters that are only essential to her development in the story. In all, it is a great work that must find its way onto any historical fiction fan’s shelf. This is definitely worth the read!
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my thirty-second completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner
Random House (2012)
Hardcover: 400 pages
Special thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for my review copy! I’m just one stop on the blog tour for The Queen’s Vow! You can check out all the other stops here! For those of you on Twitter, follow the hashtag: #QueensVowVirtualTour