The Queen’s Vow

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By: C.W. Gortner

This was an amazing book, which moved forward quickly, without being bogged down as some historical novels I have read were. The second book about the monarchs of Castile, this book details the life of Isabella of Castile, mother to the imprudent Juana (of The Last Queen).

I have not yet read the first book in the series yet. I have placed the book on hold already at the library, however, and am anxious to see how she is handled. This is historical fiction in it’s finest, and although some of the details have been scrambled a bit, and others entirely made up, the author is kind enough to detail these liberties, along with a summary at the end of the book. This was just as interesting a read as the story itself, although, truth be told, the story is what will stick in my mind.

If all children’s history books were written thus, we would not fight with children about learning their history lessons. Although, I do warn the reader, there is some “thrusting” involved. I was reading this aloud to my youngest, while putting her down for nap, and my eldest (13) sat nearby. Her cheeks burned red as the story detailed Isabella’s wedding night. I skipped over the slightly more lurid content, but she was still surprised. As this was already halfway through the book, I hadn’t expected it, or I would have jumped over it entirely. There were a few occasions of this kind of passion described, but they were few and short, especially for a book I deem a romance.

The book details Isabella’s youth, introducing us to her as a shy little girl of four, and a midnight escape during her father’s death. This becomes a template for her life that she seeks to destroy later in life. Her years in an impoverished castle lend her a humility and frugality that assist and bolster her throughout her life, and her faith is the only thing that she bows to.

When her half-brother summons her and her younger brother to court, Isabella knows that this is a major turning point in her life. Few things anchor her in the tumult that follows, but those things are strong, as she is. Beatriz, her childhood companion with a saucy mouth; her rock-solid faith; and her love for her family, including her cousin, Fernando, Prince of Aragon.

Isabella stands up for what is right, and more than once shows that she is willing to give up everything for what she believes in (her frequent loss of her jewels for various reasons is one such example). When she takes on the ‘breastplate of righteousness’, she really dons it! And when members of the church act in their own interest, she aptly punishes them.

Isabella was a strong woman, as shown by this story, although some of her mother’s madness must have seeped into her own blood. When approached by a mysterious stranger toward the end of her and Fernando’s Crusade, well, I’ll let that surprise be for now. All I’ll say is, nicely handled. It has given a perspective that I hadn’t thought of before.

This is an excellent book, and one I highly recommend for everyone. War is not pretty, neither are some of the results of war. And civil war is one of the worst kinds. Fortunately, the author has chosen to regale us with personal details of the war efforts, rather than the gory ones. This is not a ‘shock-and-awe’ book, but rather a fictionalized biography, and deserves the kind of respect afforded to such books.

I could go on and on about this, but instead, I encourage you to: Read it! Read it! Read it!

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