cover image The Queen’s Vow: 
A Novel of Isabella of Castile

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

C.W. Gortner. Ballantine, $26 (380p) ISBN 978-0-345-52396-9

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)