Thursday, September 11, 2008

Review: The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain spent a lifetime winning their country back from the Moors. They finally succeeded in 1492 with the fall of Granada. They would use their four daughters to cement alliances with other European countries in order to obtain peace for themselves and their people.

Juana of Castile is like any other princess of the time, bound up in duty to her family and her country. At sixteen she is married to Philip, the Archduke of Flanders. It is difficult for her to leave the land of her birth but she never gives a thought to being an heir to the Spanish throne. She has both a brother and an older sister who will come before her. As she departs for Flanders she never expects to set foot in Spain again.

At first things in Flanders go well. Philip is handsome and Juana is surprised to find herself happy in her new life. She feels pampered and loved, she gives birth to two children and grows used to the luxury of her life as an Archduchess. It is a far cry from the austerity that the royalty of Spain believes in. In her happiness she allows herself to forget the lessons of her parents and her childhood.

When tragedy strikes repeatedly in Spain, killing in quick succession Juana's brother, older sister and baby nephew, Juana is suddenly the heir to the Spanish throne. She becomes the pawn in every power scheme for the crown and is betrayed by nearly every man that she has ever known and loved. They will stop at nothing. They accuse her of madness in order to show her inability to rule in her own right. The oldest trick in the book, used to wrest power from women down through the ages. She uses all her wits to fight them, will it be enough to save her throne?

With the great number of historical novels written about British royalty lately, I was happy to immerse myself in a story whose history I knew little about. Mr. Gortner does a wonderful job bringing sixteenth century Europe to life and explaining the convoluted politics of the time. I fell in love with Juana of Castile, who was as trapped in her life as any prisoner in a cell, though she fought valiantly to escape it. It is the wrenching story of a strong woman who had to face tremendous obstacles.

The Last Queen is published by Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-50184-4

Order The Last Queen from Amazon


Anonymous said...

I've heard good things about this book. I know nothing about this story, but it sounds intriguing.

The Tome Traveller said...

I knew nothing about it either, that's part of why I liked it. I have read ALOT of historical fiction about British royalty, and I love it but I pretty much know the stories inside and out. This was a refreshing change.

C.W. Gortner said...

Thank you so much to Tome Traveller for hosting me on my virtual book tour and for this lovely review. I'm honored by readers' enthusiasm for THE LAST QUEEN and will be stopping by during the month of September to answer any comments or questions.

With my fond regards, C.W. Gortner

The Tome Traveller said...

Thank you Mr. Gortner! Are you working on your next book? If so, will you still with the historical fiction genre or do something different?

The Tome Traveller said...

Sorry, make that STICK with the historical fiction ahead of myself there and didn't spell check!

Sherry said...

Was she really not mad? Mentally ill? I just remember always reading about Mad Juana, and I thought she was. But I really know very little about her story either.

The Tome Traveller said...

This is fiction, so it is the author's interpretation, but I believe that the idea is that history says that she was mad. But history was written by men, men who wanted her power and position for themselves. She probably was mad after being locked up for decades but who is to say if she really was at the beginning? Hopefully Mr. Gortner will check back and give us his view!

C.W. Gortner said...

Yes, I'm sticking to historical! I've just turned in the manuscript for my next historical novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI.

Juana may have suffered from some form of mental illness; it is of course impossible to render a diagnosis so many years after her death. I personally think if so, she was driven to illness; today we understand the effects of prolonged stress on the human psyche, but in Juana’s era no one even considered this as a possible cause for her alleged erratic behavior. And when I carefully considered each of these supposedly erratic events within the context of her circumstances, her behavior became not only reasonable but even justifiable. After much deliberation, I came to the conclusion that Juana was called ‘mad’ because she defied the conventions of her time. She fought against the role thrust upon her as a woman and refused to turn over her rights to her husband. Put simply, she became a threat. And when a woman acted the way she did to protect herself, the epithet of mad was never far behind.

The Tome Traveller said...

From Spain to Italy! I'm going to want to read that one, too!

tashiana said...

boy you really love historical fiction
haha i wonder if this book will have a glimpse of columbus
hooray for female rulers!

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.