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“No one believed I was destined for greatness.”
So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens - the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a new world. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.
Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her - Fernando, prince of Aragon.
As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts - one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.
From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.
C. W. Gortner is the author of the acclaimed historical novels The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. He holds an MFA in writing with an emphasis on Renaissance studies from the New College of California.
What made the experience of listening to The Queen’s Vow the most enjoyable?
The story was good over all. It was a little long at points but the narration was excellent .
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I had listened to other books by C.W. Gortner and was expecting a great historical fiction novel. As expected, The Queen's Vow does not disappoint. Rosalyn Landor is one of my favorite narrators, and again, she delivered a great performance. Before reading this, my impression was that queen Isabella was this monster that expelled/killed/demanded conversion of the large Jewish community of Spain. The book forced me to rethink this. I feel like like my knowledge of this period in Spanish history had broadened, and it happened in a most pleasurable way.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Queen’s Vow again? Why?
Yes. The author provides a glimpse into late medieval Spanish society that is informative and captivating. The story weaves a convincing image of the intrigue and the limitations that even the most exalted in society had to contend with. It was a dark and dangerous time.The reality of life at that time and place is portrayed from the point of view of a woman of the period--a person who others sought to manipulate, but who was able to rise above expectations and do what she thought was right. Isabella of Castile was a remarkable personality. Her decisions and accomplishments would shape our world. From our vantage point, over 500 years later, some or her choices definitely seem misguided, but how many of us could have done better given her circumstances? In fact, anyone who has taken time to learn about Isabella and late 15th century Europe would know that she went out of her way to look after her country and her subjects.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Isabella was my favorite character. She is portrayed as a flawed but courageous woman, who was mostly able to make the best of the challenges she confronted.
Have you listened to any of Rosalyn Landor’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
No. I have no basis for comparison. I think she showed talent in portraying the "voice" of various characters. Unfortunately, her pronunciation of Castilian Spanish was a disappointment.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Any additional comments?
The narrator should have worked a little more on her Castilian pronunciation before taking on this project. Spanish is not a particularly difficult language to pronounce for an English speaker, but one has to follow some basic rules. For example, one should know which syllable in a word takes the accent. In "Cadiz" the accent is always on the first syllable. Why should one character pronounce it one way and another pronounce it differently? Similarly, while the "c" and "z" have the English "th" sound, the "s" sounds just like the "s" in English. Pronouncing a word with the "s" with the "th" sounds ridiculous.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I know that Isabella is a complicated figure. Both acclaimed and condemned for her legacy and contributions to history. CW Gortner of Confessions of Catherine de Medici tackles her in his latest novel, The Queen’s Vow. The scope of the novel is ambitious and attempts to cover Queen Isabella’s childhood, power struggles with her half-brother, her romance with Ferdinand, the Crusades, her meeting with Christopher Columbus and on and on. The effect is a little unfocused, but allows for a varied depiction of the monarch instead of a more singular betrayal (ie, religious fanatic). The aspects of Isabella’s life that are unflattering like igniting the Spanish inquisition are depicted but breezed over. Gortner allows Isabella to pretty heavily justify her positions. Much of that was hard to read knowing the consequences of Isabella’s choices.
Some things I would have enjoyed reading more about her children particularly Catherine of Aragaon are so briefly skimmed it was disappointing. Juana however is thoroughly explored in Gortner’s novel The Last Queen is given a bigger depiction. However, the book did include a lot of romance and though Isabella and Ferdinand appear to be a rare love match, I still felt Gortner’s treatment was heavy handed.
There is no lacking in drama as Isabella led an sensational life in a tumultuous time. And though I enjoyed much of the novel, and found Gortner’s Isabella interesting though complicated, a pre-existing interest in Isabella or the time helps. Because despite Gortner’s kind treatment Isabella is still a thorny subject and some of her actions are unjustifiably horrific and are irredeemable to modern readers.
If you don’t mind the occasional inconsistent Spanish lisping accent, the narrator, Rosalyn Landor brought really depth to Isabella’s story.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Having read much about her daughter, it was interesting to learn more about Isabella of Castile. The writing and narration were superb.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
The actual production of this audiobook is terrible. Dialogue is repeated as if this was a skipping CD, dialogue repeated chapters AFTER initial appearance & I think tracks are even missing.
What was most disappointing about C. W. Gortner’s story?
Lackluster protagonist. Isabelle is not a terribly compelling woman. She is not awful, but she lacks the complexity & depth of other Gortner characters.
What aspect of Rosalyn Landor’s performance would you have changed?
The lisping was enough to make me cringe. I know Northern Spanish accents tend towards lisping, but I just didn't care for it.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
My first audible book, I could not put the book down. Isabelle is fascinating.. also loved the narrative.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This audiobook was a huge disappointment. I found the narrator so affected and cloying that in truth my revulsion to her reading colored my view of the entire narrative. I kept plugging on hoping that there would be some redeeming moment of truth or some flash of interest, but it was like trying to swim in a pool full of mud. As best as I could make out, the book was every bit as bad as the narrator, full of hackneyed cliches and over-sentimental slop, with no imagination on the part of the author to enliven the slog.
I am a big fan of historical fiction, and my appetite for it is ravenous, so for me to be unable to finish this book says a lot about its quality. Don't waste your money.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
The story was great. An interesting read into the unique life of a medieval queen who actually ruled and not just bred heirs. Being of Spanish descent myself, I am always on the lookout for books on this subject. However, Landor, who is otherwise an excellent narrator, fell short for me because of the accent. I think someone with a slightly Spanish accent would have done much better. There are many characters in this story and it is jarring to have different English accents used with the various Spanish words peppered in. And there are many cases where I could detect where the names of Spanish cities or people were re-recorded in the middle of a sentence presumably because the first try wasn't quite right. I guess I would have rather read the actual book and imagined for myself what these characters sounded like. But otherwise, a great book.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Takes a few chapters to get going but is good after that. Stick with it.