Title: The Queen’s Vow
Author: C.W. Gortner
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Queen Isabella of Castile is known for many things throughout history – the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, uniting the kingdom of Spain with her marriage to her husband Ferdinand of Aragon, casting the Moors out of Spain, sending Columbus on his voyage to discover the new world, and perhaps most of all, the Spanish Inquisition. Author C.W. Gortner puts a new spin on Isabella’s life in his latest historical novel.
There are certain authors that you seek out as a reader, even when the genre they write hasn’t been thrilling you as of late. I haven’t been reading much historical fiction lately; I feel like many of the more interesting stories have already been told, and for those that haven’t, I find that I enjoy actual histories more than their fictional counterparts. But there are certain authors that call to you, regardless of genre, and C.W. Gortner is one of those for me. It doesn’t matter that historical fiction hasn’t been appealing to me lately; he’s such a talented author that I want to read his novels, no matter what he’s writing about.
From the very first pages of The Queen’s Vow, I knew I’d made the right decision. Gortner starts his novelization of Isabella’s life with her father’s death and her flight (along with her mother and brother) away from the palace and the clutches of the new king, Isabella’s half-brother. It’s an exciting start to a novel, but it also gives the reader the opportunity to get to know this infamous queen from a young, more innocent age. Indeed, it’s remarkable how sympathetic Gortner makes Isabella. She’s a controversial figure in history, yet Gortner digs deep into her personality to reconcile some of her more difficult decisions with the person he believes she is, and he makes a very convincing case.
As always with any C.W. Gortner novel, the book is incredibly well-researched. While he takes the occasional artistic license with history, for the most part, he presents a historically accurate account for the reader, which he discusses in the note at the end of the book. Isabella’s life was an eventful one, and Gortner writes it like a suspense novel. Even when the reader knows what is coming because of historical knowledge, it’s still fascinating to see how Gortner gets Isabella to that point, especially because he is so meticulous with his characters.
Gortner is perhaps the best author currently writing historical fiction today. He balances extensive research with smart, sympathetic characters. He really gets inside Isabella’s head, and it’s clear he knows her inside and out. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, Gortner’s books are absolutely not to be missed. The Queen’s Vow would also make a great book club pick, as readers will enjoy discussing Isabella’s difficult circumstances and controversial decisions with other readers.