The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile

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Overview

No one believed I was destined for greatness.
 
So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W....

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The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile

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Overview

No one believed I was destined for greatness.
 
So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.
 
Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.
 
As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.
 
From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

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  • The Queen's Vow
    The Queen's Vow  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gortner (The Confessions of Catherine de Medici) returns with another examination of European royalty in his fifth historical. With older brothers Enrique and Alfonso set to inherit the throne of Castile, Isabella was an unlikely queen. But Alfonso dies in a failed coup, and Enrique proves an ineffectual leader, leaving Isabella the obvious heir. Isabella and Enrique quickly clash when she refuses to marry for his political gain. In an act of rebellion, she weds Ferdinand of Aragon, heir to the impoverished neighboring kingdom. When Enrique dies, Isabella ascends to the throne and rules Castile and Aragon, with Ferdinand by her side, fending off invasions, debts, and other pressures. Along the way she starts a cultural renaissance in Spain and commissions Christopher Columbus, but also allows the Inquisition to resume. Gortner’s exhaustive look at Isabella’s rise to power eventually trails off and feels directionless. Despite being a compelling female figure in European history, this Isabella is never particularly interesting, nor are the contradictions of her rule examined. Readers will spend much of their time waiting for the pace to pick up. Agent: Jennifer Weitz, the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (June)
From the Publisher
“A masterwork by a skilled craftsman . . . Make a vow to read this book.”—New York Journal of Books
 
“A beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction . . . Gortner’s vivid details blend with his deeply intensive research to re-create Isabella and Castile in a way that the reader will find compelling and immersive, bringing not just the Queen but the whole nation to life.”—RT Book Reviews
 
“A fascinating story . . . Through his creative and spellbinding storytelling, Gortner’s readers come to know Isabella intimately in mind, heart and body as she lives through a tumultuous time, her intense longing to be the determiner of her own unique destiny.”—Wichita Falls Times Record News
 
“A novel of triumph as Isabella vanquishes her enemies one by one . . . [She is] a very human and appealing character.”—The Roanoke Times
 
“Politically charged, passionate . . . [a] well-researched, intriguing historical.”—Bookreporter

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345523969
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 354,425
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

C. W. Gortner’s historical novels have garnered international praise and been translated into fourteen languages. He divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.

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Read an Excerpt

9780345523969|excerpt

Gortner / THE QUEEN'S VOW

chapter one

Hold the reins firmly, Isabella. Don’t let him sense your fear. If he does, he’ll think he’s in control and he’ll try to throw you.”

Perched atop the elegant black stallion, I nodded, gripping the reins. I could feel the taut leather through the weather-­worn tips of my gloves. Belatedly I thought I should have let Beatriz’s father, Don Pedro de Bobadilla, buy me the new gloves he had offered for my recent thirteenth birthday. Instead, pride—­a sin I tried hard, but usually failed, to overcome—­had refused to let me admit our penury by accepting the gift, though he lived with us and surely knew quite well how impoverished we were. Just as pride hadn’t let me refuse my brother’s challenge that it was time I learned to ride a proper horse.

So, here I sat, with old leather gloves that felt thin as silk to protect my hands, atop a magnificent animal. Though it was not a large horse it was still frightening; the creature shifted and pawed the ground as though it were ready to bolt at any moment, regardless of whether I could stay on or not.

Alfonso shook his head, leaning from his roan to pry my fingers further apart, so that the reins draped through them.

“Like that,” he said. “Firm, but not so firm that you’ll injure his mouth. And remember to sit straight when you canter and lean forward at a gallop. Canela isn’t one of those stupid mules you and Beatriz ride. He’s a purebred Arabian jennet, worthy of a caliph. He needs to know his rider is in charge at all times.”

I straightened my spine, settling my buttocks on the embossed saddle. I felt light as a thistle. Though I was of an age when most girls begin to develop, I remained so flat and thin that my friend and lady-­in-­waiting Beatriz, Don Bobadilla’s daughter, was constantly cajoling me to eat more. She eyed me now with concern, her significantly more curvaceous figure so gracefully erect upon her dappled gelding that it seemed she’d been riding one her entire life, her thick black hair coiled above her aquiline features under a fillet and veil.

She said to Alfonso, “I assume Your Highness has ensured this princely jennet of yours is properly broken. We wouldn’t want anything untoward to happen to your sister.”

“Of course he’s broken. Don Chacón and I broke him ourselves. Isabella will be fine. Won’t you, hermana?”

Even as I nodded, near-­paralyzing doubt overcame me. How could I possibly be expected to show this beast that I was in charge? As if he sensed my thoughts, Canela pranced sideways. I let out a gasp, yanking at the reins. He came to a snorting halt, ears flattened, clearly displeased at the effort I’d exerted on his bit.

Alfonso winked at me. “See? She can handle him.” He looked at Beatriz. “Do you need any assistance, my lady?” he asked, in a jocular tone that hinted at his years of verbal sparring with our castle custodian’s headstrong only daughter.

“I can manage fine, thank you,” said Beatriz tartly. “Indeed, Her Highness and I will both be fine as soon as we get a feel for these Moorish steeds of yours. Lest you forget, we have ridden before, even if our mounts were, as you say, only stupid mules.”

Alfonso chuckled, pivoting on his roan with practiced ease for his mere ten years. His brilliant blue eyes glistened; his thick fair hair, shorn bluntly at his shoulders, enhanced his full, handsome face. “And lest you forget,” he said, “I’ve been riding every day since I was five. It is experience that makes for good horsemanship.”

“True,” rumbled Alfonso’s governor, Don Chacón, from his own massive horse. “The Infante Alfonso is already an accomplished equestrian. Riding is second nature to him.”

“We don’t doubt it,” I interjected before Beatriz could respond. I forced out a smile. “I believe we’re ready, brother. But, pray, not too fast.”

Alfonso nudged his roan forward, leading the way out of Arévalo’s enclosed inner courtyard, under the portcullis and through the main gates.

I shot a disapproving look at Beatriz.

Of course, this was all her doing. Bored by our daily regimen of lessons, prayer, and needlework, she had announced this morning that we must get some exercise, or we would turn into crones before our time. We’d been cooped up indoors too long, she said, which was true enough, winter having been particularly harsh this year. And when she asked our governess, Doña Clara, for permission, my aya had agreed because riding for us invariably consisted of taking the castle’s elderly mules on a leisurely jaunt around the curtain wall surrounding the castle and its adjoining township for an hour before supper.

But after I changed into my riding clothes and went with Beatriz into the courtyard, I found Alfonso standing there with Don Chacón and two impressive stallions—­gifts sent by our half brother, King Enrique. The black horse was for me, Alfonso said. His name was Canela.

I had suppressed my alarm as I mounted the stallion with the aid of a footstool. I was even more alarmed, however, when it became clear I was expected to ride astride, a la jineta, the way the Moors did, perched on the narrow leather saddle with the stirrups drawn up high—­an unfamiliar and unsettling sensation.

“An odd name for a horse,” I’d remarked, to disguise my apprehension. “Cinnamon is a light color, while this creature is black as night.”

Canela tossed his mane and swiveled his exquisitely shaped head about to nip my leg. I did not think it a good augury for the afternoon.

“Beatriz,” I now hissed as we rode out onto the plain, “why didn’t you tell me? You know I dislike surprises.”

“That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you,” she hissed back. “If I had, you wouldn’t have come. You’d have said we should read or sew or recite novenas. Say what you will, we have to have fun sometime.”

“I hardly see how being thrown from a horse can be deemed fun.”

“Bah. Just think of him as an overgrown dog. He’s big, yes, but quite harmless.”

“And how, pray, would you know?”

“Because Alfonso would never have let you ride Canela otherwise,” said Beatriz, with a truculent toss of her head that revealed the immutable self-­confidence that had made her my closest companion and confidante—­though, as ever, I found myself caught between amusement and discomfort when confronted with her irreverent character.

We were three years apart, and antithetical in temperament. Beatriz acted as though the realm outside our gates was a vast unexplored place filled with potential adventure. Doña Clara said her reckless attitude was due to the fact that Beatriz’s mother had died shortly after her birth; her father had raised her alone in Arévalo, without feminine supervision. Dark as I was fair, voluptuous as I was angular, Beatriz was also rebellious, unpredictable, and too outspoken for her own good. She even challenged the nuns at the Convento de las Agustinas where we went to take our lessons, driving poor Sor María to distraction with her endless questions. She was a loyal friend, and amusing as well, always quick to find mirth in what others did not; but she was also a constant headache for her elders and for Doña Clara, who’d tried in vain to teach Beatriz that well-­bred ladies did not give in to random impulse whenever the urge overcame them.

“We should have told Doña Clara the truth,” I said, glancing at my hands. I was clenching the reins again and forced myself to loosen my grip. “I hardly think she’ll find our gallivanting about on horses appropriate.”

Beatriz pointed ahead. “Who cares about appropriate? Look around you!”

I did as she instructed, reluctantly.

The sun dipped toward the horizon, shedding a vibrant saffron glow over the bleached-­bone sky. To our left Arévalo sat on its low hill, a dun-­colored citadel with six towers and a crenellated keep, abutting the provincial market town bearing the same name. To our right wound the main road that led to Madrid, while all around us, stretching as far as my eyes could see, lay the open expanse of Castile—­an endless land dotted with fields of barley and wheat, vegetable patches, and clusters of wind-­twisted pine. The air was still, heady with the fragrance of resin and a whiff of melting snow that I always associated with the advent of spring.

“Isn’t it spectacular?” breathed Beatriz, her eyes shining. I nodded, gazing upon the countryside that had been my home for almost as long as I could remember. I’d seen it many times before, of course, from Arévalo’s keep and during our annual trips with Doña Clara to the neighboring town of Medina del Campo, where the biggest animal fair in Castile was held. But for a reason I could not have explained, today it looked different, like when one suddenly notices that time has transformed an oft-­looked-­at painting, darkening the colors to a new luster and deepening the contrast between light and shadow.

My practical nature assured me this was because I was seeing the land from higher up, perched on the back of Canela rather than on the mule I was used to. Still, tears pricked my eyes and, without warning, I had a sudden memory of an imposing sala filled with people in velvets and silks. The image faded as soon as it came, a phantom from the past, and when Alfonso waved to me from where he rode ahead with Don Chacón, I promptly forgot I sat upon an unfamiliar, potentially treacherous animal and jabbed my heels into its ribs.

Canela leapt forth, throwing me forward against his arched neck. I instinctively grabbed hold of his mane, lifting myself off the saddle and tensing my thighs. Canela responded with a satisfied snort. He quickened his pace, galloping past Alfonso, raising a whirlwind of ochre dust.

“Dios mío!” I heard Alfonso gasp as I tore past him. From the corner of my eye I saw Beatriz fast behind me, shouting to my brother and an astonished Don Chacón: “Years of experience, eh?”

I burst into laughter.

it felt marvelous, just what I imagined flying must be: to leave behind the cares of the classroom and studies, the chill flagstone of the castle and baskets of endless darning, the constant muttered worry over money and my mother’s erratic health; to be free and revel in the sensation of the horse moving beneath me and the landscape of Castile.

When I came to a panting halt on a ridge overlooking the plain, my riding hood hung on its ribbons down my back, my light auburn hair tumbling loose from its braids. Sliding off Canela, I patted his lathered neck. He nuzzled my palm before he set himself to munching on brittle thornbushes sprouting between the rocks. I settled on a nearby pile of stones and watched Beatriz come plunging up the ridge. As she came to a stop, flushed from her exertions, I remarked, “You were right, after all. We did need the exercise.”

“Exercise!” she gasped, slipping off her horse. “Are you aware that we just left His Highness and Chacón behind in a cloud of dust?”

I smiled. “Beatriz de Bobadilla, must everything be a contest with you?”

She put her hands on her hips. “When it comes to proving our worthiness, yes. If we don’t take it upon ourselves, who will?”

“So it’s our strength you wish to prove,” I said. “Hmm. Explain this to me.” Beatriz flopped beside me, gazing toward the ebbing sun. The sun fell slowly at this time of year in Castile, affording us a breathtaking vision of gold-­rimmed clouds and violet-­and-­scarlet skies. The incipient evening wind caught at Beatriz’s tangled black hair; her expressive eyes, so quick to show her every thought, turned wistful. “I want to prove we’re as accomplished as any man and should therefore enjoy the same privileges.”

I frowned. “Why would we ever want to do that?”

“So we can live as we see fit and not have to apologize for it, just as His Highness does.”

“Alfonso doesn’t live as he sees fit.” I righted my hood, tucking its ribbons into my bodice. “In fact, he has considerably less freedom than you think. Save for today, I hardly see him anymore, so busy is he with his rounds of swordplay, archery, and jousting, not to mention his studies. He is a prince. He has many demands on his time.”

She scowled. “Yes, important demands, not just learning to sew and churn butter and corral the sheep. If we could live as men, then we’d be free to roam the world undertaking noble quests, like a knight errant or the Maid of Orléans.”

I concealed the unbidden excitement her words roused in me. I’d schooled myself to hide my feelings ever since my mother, Alfonso, and I had fled Valladolid that terrible night ten years earlier, for since then I had come to understand far better what had occurred. We were not so isolated in Arévalo that I failed to glean the occasional news that filtered over the meseta from the royal residences in Madrid, Segovia, and Val- ladolid; the subjects were gossiped about by our servants, easy to hear if one seemed not to listen. I knew that with Enrique’s accession, the court had become a dangerous place for us, ruled by his favorites and his avaricious queen. I had never forgotten the palpable fear I’d felt that night of my father’s death; the long ride across dark fields and forests, avoiding the main roads in case Enrique sent guards in our pursuit. The memory was branded in me, an indelible lesson that life’s changes would occur whether or not we were prepared for them, and we must do our best to adapt, with a minimum of fuss.

“The Maid of Orléans was burned at the stake,” I finally said. “Is that the grand end you’d have us aspire to, my friend?”

Beatriz sighed. “Of course not, it’s a horrible death. But I’d like to think that, given the chance, we could lead armies in defense of our country as she did. As it stands, we’re doomed before we’ve ever lived.” She flung her arms wide. “It’s the same thing day after day, week after week, month after dreary month! Is this how all gentlewomen are raised, I wonder? Are we so unintelligent our sole pleasures must be to entertain guests and please our future husbands, to learn how to smile between dinner courses without ever expressing an opinion? If so, we might as well forgo the marriage and childbearing parts altogether and proceed directly to old age and sainthood.”

I regarded her. Beatriz always asked questions for which there were no easy answers, seeking to change that which had been ordained before we were born. It disconcerted me that lately I too had found myself asking similar questions, plagued by a similar restlessness, though I would never admit to it. I didn’t like the impatience that overcame me when I looked to the future, because I knew that even I, a princess of Castile, must one day wed where I was told and settle for whatever life my husband saw fit to give me.

“It is neither tedious nor demeaning to marry, and care for a husband and children,” I said. “Such has been a woman’s lot since time began.”

“You only recite what you’ve been told,” she retorted. “ ‘Women breed and men provide.’ What I ask is: Why? Why must we have only one path? Who said a woman can’t take up the sword and cross, and march on Granada to vanquish the Moors? Who said we can’t make our own decisions or manage our own affairs as well as any man?”

“It is not a question of who said it. It simply is.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well, the Maid of Orléans didn’t marry. She didn’t scrub and sew and plan dowries. She donned a suit of armor and went to war for her dauphin.”

“Who betrayed her to the English,” I reminded her and paused. “Beatriz, the Maid was called upon to perform God’s work. You cannot compare her destiny to ours. She was a holy vessel; she sacrificed herself for her country.”

Beatriz made a rude snorting sound but I knew I’d scored an inarguable point in this argument we’d been engaged in since childhood. I remained outwardly unperturbed, as I invariably did when Beatriz pontificated, but as I imagined my vivacious friend clad in rusty armor, urging a company of lords to war for la patria, a sudden giggle escaped me.

“Now you laugh at me!” she cried.

“No, no.” I choked back my mirth as best I could. “I was not. I was only thinking that had the Maid come your way, you’d have joined her without a moment’s hesitation.”

“Indeed, I would have.” She leapt to her feet. “I’d have thrown my books and embroidery out the window and jumped on the first horse available. How wonderful it must be to do as you please, to fight for your country, to live with only the sky as your roof and the earth as your bed.”

“You exaggerate, Beatriz. Crusades involve more hardship than history tells us.”

“Perhaps, but at least we’d be doing something!”

I looked at her hands, clasped as if she were brandishing a weapon. “You could certainly wield a sword with those big paws of yours,” I teased.

She stuck out her chin. “You’re the princess, not me. You would wield the sword.”

As if day had slipped without warning into night, cold overcame me. I shivered. “I don’t think I could ever lead an army,” I said, in a low voice. “It must be terrible to watch your countrymen cut down by your foes and to know your own death can happen at any moment. Nor”—­I held up my hand, preempting Beatriz’s protest—­“do I think you should exalt the Maid of Orléans as an example for us to emulate. She fought for her prince only to suffer a cruel death. I’d not wish such a fate on anyone. Certainly, I do not wish it for myself. Boring as it may be to you, I’d rather wed and bear children, as is my duty.”

Beatriz gave me a penetrating look. “Duty is for weaklings. Don’t tell me you haven’t questioned as well. You devoured that tale of the crusader kings in our library as if it were marzipan.”

I forced out a laugh. “You truly are incorrigible.”

At that moment, Alfonso and Don Chacón rode up, the governor looking most chagrined. “Your Highness, my lady de Bobadilla, you shouldn’t have galloped off like that. You could have been hurt, or worse. Who knows what lies in wait on these lands at dusk?”

I heard the fear in his voice. Though King Enrique had seen fit to leave us be in Arévalo, isolated from court, his shadow was never far from our lives. The threat of abduction was a peril I’d long grown accustomed to, had in fact come to ignore. But Chacón was devoted to our protection and viewed any possibility of a threat as a serious matter.

“Forgive me,” I told him. “I am at fault. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Whatever it was, I’m impressed,” said Alfonso. “Who would have thought you’d be such an Amazon, sweet sister?”

“I, an Amazon? Surely not. I merely tested Canela’s prowess. He did well, don’t you think? He’s much faster than his size would indicate.”

Alfonso grinned. “He is. And yes, you did very well, indeed.”

“And now we must be getting back,” said Chacón. “Night is almost upon us. Come, we’ll take the main road. And no galloping ahead this time, do I make myself clear?”

Back on our horses, Beatriz and I followed my brother and Chacón into the twilight. Beatriz opted not to act up, I noted with relief, riding demurely at my side. Yet as we neared Arévalo, streaks of coral inking the sky, I couldn’t help but recall our conversation, and wonder, despite all efforts to the contrary, what it must feel like to be a man.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 30, 2012

    The Queen's Vow starts with a bang and ends on an almost philoso

    The Queen's Vow starts with a bang and ends on an almost philosophical note that really put me in the year 1492, on the brink of uniting the world's hemispheres at long last.

    Oh, those middles.

    Especially as the narrative draws to a close, there are more and more patches of time that are reported in a not very engaging way. It seemed the author got exhausted by the incredible demands of the subject matter. If he had had the time two or three books would have given him, he could have covered all the material as vividly as he does in the beginning. I have a PhD in medieval Spanish, so the basic story is all too familiar to me, and I hoped this book could send me back in time to viscerally witness the events as they unfolded. Many scenes are very successful, but they're laced together with straight explanations that needed a little something extra.

    In particular, I would really have liked to see a lot more of Torquemada, the most controversial figure in a book full of controversial figures. He's portrayed as a ghoul who shows up at three different points to scare Isabella into setting up the Spanish Inquisition and expelling the Jews from her newly united Spain. I thought it was a missed opportunity to explore exactly what forces would make a person a proponent of such policies, but the character is so complex, he probably needs his own book anyway.

    It would also be really nice if more historians would point out for the general public that Spain was the last European country to establish such an inquisition. These institutions were already at work in every other European country. Of course, it lasted a lot longer after that in Spain, but that's another story.

    Isabel's female psychology seemed to be just out of reach of the author at times. When she says that she'd like to do all the things a man can do, it seemed like something a man would think a woman would say. Perhaps Isabel la Católica did indeed think women should have all the same advantages as men, but I suspect strongly that she would express it differently, or not at all, just putting on the armor and having done with it because of her obvious pragmatism.

    On a more technical note, I'd like to explain that the "don" title in Spanish works the same way as "sir" in English: it's used with the first name. Just as "Sir Elton" and "Sir Elton John" are correct but "Sir John" (in this case) would be an enormous gaffe, so "Don Antonio" and "Don Antonio de Nebrija" are fine, while "Don de Nebrija" is jarringly wrong. This is easy to get right and I hope more editors will get wind of this as more Spanish-themed manuscripts cross their desks.

    I was very excited about this book and enjoyed reading it, but I think my expectations might have been too high. So, love this book for the overwhelmingly iconic time it portrays and for the possibility it presents of getting inside the head of one of history's most interesting people. Love it because of the affection with which the author writes about Spain, which normally doesn't get much notice in historical fiction in English (except as a religious fanatic bad guy with lots of galleons to rob). Love it for the intense descriptions at the beginning of the book and the beautifully imagined personalities of Fernando of Aragon and Christopher Columbus. And hope that next time, the author doesn't take on quite so much material, because I think that is this book's main downfall.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2013

    A Queens Vow

    It was well written, but kind of a let down-not exactly meeting the expectations set forth by ratings & reviews. Definatly worth readimg if you love history as I do, however I felt the author wasted half the book on Isabella's younger years than on her actual reign, marriage, accomplishments.....the actual fight to unite Spain under one monarchy was hastily done...... 3/5 stars from Tisha Sanders

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 22, 2012

    Holding a new novel by C.W. Gortner in your hands is like the ex

    Holding a new novel by C.W. Gortner in your hands is like the excitement felt the night before a long awaited trip. The anticipation of embarking on a new literary adventure is tremendous, and once the novel has begun, each turn of the page is a moment to be savored... The Queen's Vow is no exception to this type of delight.

    From the first page of this enthralling novel, the reader is given a heartfelt introduction to one of histories most empowering women, Isabella of Castile. Her life was surrounded by chaos and the ever looming threat of danger, but had her destiny been known to the political leaders of her time, her life wold have been in even more peril. Since this was not the case, everyone, including Isabella, thought there was little use for her beyond that of a political marriage. But when a sudden turn of events puts her within reach of the crown, she must utilize her innate strength and wisdom in order to prove worthy of her natural right.

    Told in elegant prose, and steep in historical detail, The Queen's Vow illuminates the life of Isabella flawlessly. The three dimensional characters are vastly different, allowing the reader to form a unique connection with each one. In addition to this, like Gortner's other novels, it is amazing how each character can demand so much of the readers attention without ever taking away from the emphasis on the main character. There is no need for any foreknowledge of Isabella of Castile or the Spanish Inquisition in order to fully comprehend and immerse yourself within this book. In fact, even if you are well versed in these subjects, there is still so much to gain by reading this exceptional literary work. I highly recommend The Queen's Vow to anyone who takes pleasure in historical fiction while receiving a fascinating history lesson; it will no doubt hold a special place in your library.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2012

    Very much enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading more fr

    Very much enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading more from Mr.
    Gortner! I had known virtually nothing of Isabella of Castille, so this
    fascinating glimpse into the world of the Spanish Royals was quite enlightening.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2012

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    A book history lovers should check out!

    sabella of Castille is a historical figure that I would think most people are familiar with. If, of course, you paid attention in history class. She is an intriguing person because she did what other women of her time weren't allowed to do: She took her fate into her own hands. In this novel, C.W. explores the life of Isabella, from childhood to adult. Her father died when she was very young. As the kings sister, she grew up knowing what her life might behold. She had no real political desires of her own. However as fate would have it, she was destined to rule. She stood up to those who would resign her to a life not of her choosing. She married for love and ruled a kingdom.
    C.W. Gortner has written a highly entertaining novel about Isabella's life. The book begins when she is a young girl who is brought to court after many years away to celebrate the birth of her brother's heir. She's not accustomed to all the finery, the intrigue, the scandal, and the backstabbing. However it's at this court she meets Fernando, prince of Aragon, the one she is not only destined to rule with but also to unite their kingdoms . They have an instant connection but it seems for a time, fate has other plans. Their road to be together is paved by war and scandal. Isabella has to deal with her brother, King Enrique, who wants to marry her off to secure his kingdom. Defying him is an act of treason.
    This novel has many ups and downs. It's a fascinating and emotional journey about one of the most famous queens in history. Gortner brings to light fascinating details that help seal Isabella's historical legacy. This is a book I would recommend to all you history lovers out there.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 16, 2012

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    good read

    liked it!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2012

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    Fascinating

    I have read a lot of books about the Tudors and The Romanovs but have never delved into Spanish Royalty so this book was extra fascinating to me. This book was so well written I really enjoyed it and as I have said I love a historical fiction book that’s makes me want to do more research. I also plan on reading Gortner’s The Last Queen about Isabella’s daughter Juana. I found this book so fascinating and I learned much about Spanish Royalty and how Spain was united. It was also fascinating to learn about Catherine of Aragon’s mother since I have read so much Tudor historical fiction. This was my first book by, C.W. Gortner and will not be my last I plan on reading everything he has written because his writing is fabulous he kept me interested from beginning to end, this book never got dull and held me rapt it was hard to put down. I know this is Historical Fiction and Mr. Gortner has said he took a few liberties but I really want to think that Isabel didn’t want to enforce the Spanish Inquisition I liked her I thought she was an amazingly strong woman especially considering her mother was a little well, crazy, maybe today she would be manic or bi-polar and be on meds but at that time in history there was no such thing. I liked the fact that she chose her own husband (even though there were a few liberties taken with their story) I thought they made a great power couple their styles of rule complemented each other very well. With the hints we got in this book about Juana’s personality I am going to go right into reading The Last Queen while this one is fresh in my mind. 4 ½ Stars

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2012

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    I Also Recommend:

    Who knew that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of grade school

    Who knew that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of grade school lore shared such a passionate romance? Thanks to the imaginings of renowned historical fiction novelist, C.W. Gortner, the 15th century Spanish monarchs sizzle in The Queen's Vow. Gortner implicitly understands the underpinnings of the heart of a powerful woman. She's a military commander and a mother. She's a royal pawn and a supreme ruler. She's a wifely figurehead and her husband's equal, if not, superior. Isabella is a complicated contradiction and Gortner tenderly adds fascinating shades of light and dark to his depiction of her. But most of all, he makes her come alive on the page from a nubile maiden to Columbus' champion.

    Where the novel shines is in the loving, yet beleaguered, relationship between Ferdinand and Isabella. Surviving many attempts by her brother and his minions to marry her off to a Portuguese royal, Isabella outwits their schemes by uniting with the man of her own choosing. Through their holy vows, they are able to bring together the divided kingdoms of Castile and Aragon to form a fully united Spanish realm. But politics aside, the romance of their attraction is nothing short of poetic in Gortner's prose.

    Though we stood in a crowded hall for this first public meeting, witnessed by dozens of eyes and ears, it was as if Fernando and I were alone in our recognition that without each other, life could only be an incomprehensible labor.

    From their first impromptu dance as children in a garden in Segovia to the formation of their unshakable bond forged through decades on the throne, they never lose faith in each other. Despite Ferdinand's numerous infidelities and Isabella's proclivity to emasculate her husband in public, the two depend on the strength they find in their partnership. This sense of teamwork provides the resiliency that finally drives the Moors out of their country after the imposed threat of centuries of occupation.

    Their remarkable achievements are also tempered with vagrant obstructions concerning the religious rights of their subjects. Through harassment, intimidation and finally by decree, they order every Jewish person, who refuses to convert to Catholicism, to leave the country. This Inquisition is a stain on the reputation of an otherwise spectacular reign.

    While daring and adventurous throughout the book, Isabella meets her match when she comes face to face with Christopher Columbus. Her head is turned by the handsome, yet arrogant, navigator. Despite a bankrupt treasury mortgaged on her crown jewels, she is willing to invest in his daring mission to cross the Ocean Sea. Little does she know, the epic results her patronage will bring. Highlighting this momentous occasion, Gortner beautifully describes the historic nature of their illustrious meeting.

    What was it about this man, that he could rouse such emotion in me? I now believed he was indeed someone I'd been destined to meet, an act of fate I could neither resist nor evade.

    What Gortner does so brilliantly is dramatize a vast multitude of historical events into a compelling, riveting drama. Nearly 400 pages of battles and betrothals, plots and persecutions move at a brisk pace as seen through the eyes of the woman who experienced it all firsthand. It is a masterwork by a skilled craftsman to weave the fictional with the factual in such an entertaining way. It is a tale that will delight romantics and historians alike.

    Overall, make a vow to read this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    Great book!

    I love this author and this book met all expectations!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2014

    I have to admit that I was drawn to this book by both the histor

    I have to admit that I was drawn to this book by both the historical fiction as well as the beautiful dress that graced the cover. I've never read much about the Spanish royals, so this was an entirely new section of history for me to read about.

    Usually when it comes to history I can be a stickler for the facts, but in this case, there was no way for me to do that because I didn't really know this era or these royals, so I cannot attest to the historical accuracy, but I can say that it was a beautifully woven story that had me not wanting to put the book down. At times I hated that I had to go to work because I just wanted to know if Isabella was going to prevail over her half brother or if she was going to stay locked in her rooms a prisoner of his capricious wife.

    I think one of my favorite parts of this book was that Isabella and Ferdinando seemed to really be in love as opposed to most royals who have an arranged marriage and they make it work. Just looking at Enrique and his wife Johanna, who both had very different proclivities, but were forced to stay together for the worse of the realm.

    Gortner does an amazing job painting the trials and tribulations that Isabella and Ferdinando face as they struggle to make a united front and prove their right to rule. I was rooting for the two of them as I read, but I was also rooting for Isabella to find her own voice and for her to come into her own right as queen, and what a marvelous job she did.

    I will definitely be reading more for Gortner, who paints such a wonderful and enticing picture of history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    Recommendable

    The book was exciting but some of the Spanish throws you off. I would recommend to historical fiction readers as well as CW. Gortner's other books. Not so much for Book club discussion though.

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  • Posted December 26, 2012

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    I know very little about Queen Isabella. I know she's the one

    I know very little about Queen Isabella. I know she's the one who funded Christopher Columbus's infamous voyage. And I know a little about the Spanish Inquisition. But, outside of that I have no idea about the woman behind the crown and how she came into power.

    It must have been terrifying at times to live in the manor that Isabella did in her childhood years. A royal princess basically banished and living in poverty. It's interesting to read how her half-brother treated them. He must have known he wasn't a very good king to keep Isabella and her brother so far from court. He feared an uprising to place either one of them on the throne (mainly her brother at first). I admired Isabella for not only surviving this trying to time, but she honestly seem to come out of it an upstanding young women.

    She held strong to her convictions despite that fact that there were so many that wanted to manipulate her. She felt she was the rightful Queen even though her brother had a daughter (even if he was not her father). She positioned herself so that the people wanted her to rule. She aligned herself with the country Aragon by marrying the heir. Even before she became Queen, she carried herself like she may one day rule. It was interesting to watch her grow throughout all this because she honestly believed in the beginning that she would never rule. But, as truth became reality, she did what she had to do.

    One of things that has always fascinated me about Queen's Elizabeth I was that she was a woman ruling in a man's world. After this book, I now feel the same way about Queen Isabella. She may have been married to King Fernando, but she alone had the right to make decision when it came to Castile. There were so many that tried to brush her off because she was a woman. She didn't' let the men around her control her. I think she honestly made decision based on what she felt was for the good of her country. It's unfortunate that she's remembered for things that I don't think we fully understand.

    This is the first book I've read by this author. Historical fiction can be hard to write when you're trying to stick to what is none and adding what is not. I was impressed with this book, and I'll be adding C.W. Gortner to my list of historical fiction authors!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

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    COMPELLING AND COMPLEX STORY OF ISABELLA OF CASTILE! THE QUEEN


    COMPELLING AND COMPLEX STORY OF ISABELLA OF CASTILE!

    THE QUEEN'S VOW: A NOVEL OF ISABELLA OF CASTILE by C.W. Gortner is a wonderful fiction fiction. The powerful,complex, and compelling story of Isabella of Castile from 1484,her exile as a young child to her becoming Queen of Spain to 1492. It is her story from her young childhood during her exile,to her husband,Ferdinand of Aragon,their trials,struggles,triumphs, danger,sadness,hopes and dreams. While, some though of Isabella as an evil Queen,she did what she thought was best for her Kingdom,her people,her courage,and her strong will. She was considered a controversial Queen,her and her Prince Aragon brought two realms together.A powerful story. If you enjoy historical fiction at its best than "The Queen's Vow" is a must read. Received for an honest review from the publisher and Library Thing. Details can be found at the author's website,Ballantine Books,an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, and My Book Addiction and More.

    RATING; 4

    HEAT RATING: MILD

    REVIEWED BY: AprilR, My Book Addiction and More

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2012

    The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner is a story of Isabella of Castil

    The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner is a story of Isabella of Castille and her life from a young girl from 1484 to Queen of Spain in 1492. Isabella, her friend Beatriz and her brother Alfonso are children when they are taken from their home with their mother to live in the court of their half brother, King Enrique of Castile. Danger abounds at every turn with court intrique and jealousy because Alfonso is legally the heir to the throne after Enrique. Queen Juana has other ideas though and she intends for her daughter Joanna, whom is rumored to not be the child of Enrique, to be the heir. Isabella is soon accused of treason and kept a virtual prisoner. She is betrothed to Alfonso of Portugal but she refuses to marry because she wants to choose her own husband. She had secretly been in contact with Ferdinand of Aragon and with the help of King John II of Aragon, Ferdinand's father, they are betrothed. Because Isabella and Ferdinand were second cousins they could not marry without a dispensation from the pope. This was obtained with the help of Rodrigo Borgia.


    Isabella's reign as Queen of Castile started after the death of her brother Alfonso, he named Isabella heir to the throne on his deathbed. Isabella's reign was not an easy one, what with the threat of being usurped or assassinated by supporters of Infanta Joanna. She had to be very strong willed and became a powerful leader along with her husband Fernando. She proved to be a formidable ruler and was successful in quelling several rebellions. She was also known for her reforms and bringing peace to Spain and restoring the countries finances. She went along with Ferdinand during the wars with the Moors and unfortunately she is known for her part in the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Isabella and Ferdinand had five live children of which the youngest Catalina (Catherine) of Aragon was married first to King Arthur and then after his death to King Henry VIII.


    I found this story very interesting and informative. I had previously read Mr.Gortner's book The Last Queen, which was about Isabella and Ferdinand's daughter Queen Juana and I was excited to read his latest work. As with all of the author's previous books, The Queen's Vow is very well researched and told in a way that is so easy to read as historical books can be quite dull and boring at times. Mr. Gortner brought the character's to life and I felt that the descriptions of the times were so accurate that I felt myself seeing Spain in my mind as it was, the smells, and sounds. I love to be able to put myself in a story and CW. Gortner can certainly do that with his storytelling. I highly recommend this book for any historical fan out there, no matter what era you are interested in. I give it 5 stars!!

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

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    The Queen’s Vow is a biographical novel about the life of

    The Queen’s Vow is a biographical novel about the life of Queen Isabella of Castile who married Prince Ferdinand of Aragon in the 15th century. Isabella makes an intriguing heroine, strong, determined, savvy when confronted with the numerous political intrigues, decisions and responsibilities she faced. As a young woman, she manoeuvres her way through court plots and cold-hearted enemies until a stroke of fortune/misfortune makes her the official heiress to Castile. The novel spans most of her life and includes both the good decisions and bad decisions this tough woman made – from starting the Inquisition to funding Christopher Columbus’ expedition to discover the new world.

    The author paints a softer version of this fascinating woman than history has depicted. He does an excellent job of demonstrating some of the emotional turmoil she experienced when making hard decisions or trying to protect her people. Isabella definitely walked a fine line between King Enrique, the Catholic Church, and the many Jews or Conversos in Spain. The novel also delves into descriptions of her family, other historical persons, and physical surroundings with astounding detail.

    I always know I'm settling down for a rich read when I pick up any of Christopher Gortner’s novels. And this one was no exception. He is highly knowledgeable in the Renaissance period and this comes through strongly in this latest novel. The beautiful prose, blended with bountiful detailed descriptions, make this novel a delight to read. His uncanny ability to delve deep into the thoughts of the historical figure he writes about is what truly brings to life his main characters.

    If you have never read one of C.W. Gortner’s novels, then this is a good one to start with. Queen Isabella was the mother of Juana, the main character in another of Gortner’s novels, The Last Queen. And don’t forget to pick up The Confessions of Catherine de Medici! He truly is a talented author with a knack from bringing these famous women to life. Very Highly recommended.

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  • Posted June 17, 2012

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    Isabella's initial exposure to politics comes just before the de

    Isabella's initial exposure to politics comes just before the demise of her father, a man who will die from grief after his closest adviser is murdered. At least that is what Isabella's furious mother believes. Standing by her father's deathbed, Isabella is startled to recognize the look of greed on her half-brother Enrique's face, a look that clearly presages the kind of King he will become. For The Queens's Vow is about Isabella's newly found fortitude which will be sorely tested first by her brother, advised by the evil Marquis of Villena, and then as the novel progresses by numerous other so-called "advisers." Sometimes readers may forget that Kings and Queens are human beings with strengths and fragile aspects of personality that shape history for years, if not centuries. We are reminded in this fiction account that women were not expected to be successful rulers, being deemed less possessed of intelligence, capabilities, and skills necessary to accomplish such a daunting task. Isabella is presented as a woman ready to rule wisely and fairly, a woman who learns from her own mistakes.

    Before that comes to pass, however, King Enrique seems incapable of fathering an heir while his wife manages to conceive a beautiful girl, much to the delight of court and public gossipers. That wouldn't matter much to Isabella except that the Queen insists her daughter is the heir to the throne and does everything in her power to guarantee that neither Alfonso (Isabella's other brother) nor Isabella will ever rule Castile. Queen Juana's road to perdition makes for tense and riveting reading, supplemented by the increasing notorious influence of the King's own lover.

    Isabella's world dramatically alters after she meets Prince Ferdinand of Aragon; they are magnetically connected immediately with a tenderness and passion totally unexpected in the swirls of Court dissension and machinations. Their brief meeting marks the beginning of an eventual marriage of mind and heart that will have its highs and lows but more notably will be marked by the manner in which they treat each other, with respect and equality hardly seen in that particular country or century. Their union continues with the rise of military conflicts and the Church's insistence that an Inquisition be conducted to root out Jewish conversos heretics (and more as Isabella suspects) that is earning Spain divine disfavor. These are just a few of the contentious problems that the couple must deal with as they begin to raise a family and gird Spain for prosperity in years to come!

    The Queen's Vow is finely researched and even more finely written! We come to know Isabella intimately in mind, heart, and body as she lives through a tumultuous time, her intense longing to be the determiner of her own unique destiny! Many have been Queens but few manifest the regal qualities that truly define female leaders like this magnificent "Majestad." Phenomenal accomplishment, C. W. Gortner - this novel deserves the highest acclaim!

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