Title: The Last Queen
Author: C.W. Gortner
Genre: Historical Ficton
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
The third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, Juana is born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify their kingdom, bearing witness to the fall of Granada and Columbus’s discoveries. At the age of sixteen, she is sent to wed Philip, the archduke of Flanders, as part of her parents’ strategy to strengthen Spain, just as her youngest sister, Catherine of Aragon, is sent to England to become the first wife of Henry VIII.
Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her handsome young husband, the sole heir to the Habsburg Empire. At first she is content with her children and her life in Flanders. But when tragedy strikes and she inherits the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, her intelligence and pride used as weapons against her, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it could cost her everything.
With brilliant, lyrical prose, novelist and historian C. W. Gortner conjures Juana through her own words, taking the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England. The Last Queen brings to life all the grandeur and drama of an incomparable era, and the singular humanity of this courageous, passionate princess whose fight to claim her birthright captivated the world.
The Last Queen is one of those books I had heard a lot about from other bloggers. It received very good reviews everywhere I looked, so I went ahead and added it to my TBR list since I am a huge fan of historical fiction. However, I kept putting off reading it because of those rave reviews – I figured it would be somewhat of a disappointment. I am happy to say that I was completely wrong – The Last Queen is a captivating read that I didn’t want to put down.
I loved the character of Juana. Being the daughter of Queen Isabella of Spain, you can expect her to be a strong woman; however, I was horrified at what she was forced to endure at the hands of those she loved, as well as inspired by her strength and courage. However, she wasn’t perfect; for one thing, she was incredibly stubborn. She admits more than once in the book that part of her situation was of her own making. She is resolute and stands by her decisions. She also tended to trust people too much and perhaps think too well of them. As a result, she didn’t know who she could put her faith in. However, these character defects are not criticisms on my part; instead, they make the character come alive and make her seem real. Like any other person, she has flaws; through them, though, her strength still shines.
I didn’t know anything about Juana La Loca before reading this book. I was captured by the exquisite detail and the picture that Gortner painted. He also presents a very interesting view of her history, one that I am more than willing to accept. Was she actually mad, or was it a by-product of how she was treated? Gortner seems to stick by the view that she was a manic depressive, something I can completely believe.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Queen, as I believe any fan of historical fiction would. It is well-written, sharp, clear, and completely engrossing. I can’t wait to see what C.W. Gortner writes next; I think he has won himself a fan for life.