Original date of publication: 2012
My edition: 2010 (Ballantine)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, May 2012
Until I began reading this book, I hadn’t realized that I’ve never actually read a novel about Isabella of Spain—one of the most powerful women in early modern history. The novel is set during the early years of Isabella’s life and covers her marriage, struggle to maintain the throne of Castile, and the birth of her children.
CW Gortner is known for researching the heck out of his novels, so you know you will always get high-quality fiction from him. That said, though, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’ve enjoyed some of his others or as much as I wanted to. There’s nothing technically wrong with this novel, but I wasn’t as interested or invested in Isabella’s story as I was with Juana la Loca’s in The Last Queen.
The prose is stiff, as is the dialogue, and I found it hard to like or relate to Isabella’s plight (even though the novel is written in the first person). In the opening chapters of the book, Isabella and her brother talk like adults, which simply wasn’t believable for me. For as great of a queen as Isabella was, it doesn’t come across so strongly in the novel; she’s either a lovesick newlywed or weak-willed. She’s not dynamic or three-dimensional. I understand a historical novelists need to a) not make a character seem too modern and b) retain historical accuracy, but I just couldn’t understand or even like Isabella for me to care about what happens to her ultimately. In all, this was a disappointing novel, which is sad considering what I expected.