With unmatched eloquence C.W. Gortner's The Last Queen provides a gripping, fascinating story of Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country's throne.
The reader first meets Juana of Castile at the age of thirteen as she recounts her parents, Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, ending three hundred years of Moorish domination to unite the kingdoms of Spain. As she watches Boabdil, the last Moorish king of Granada, surrender the keys to the city, Juana finds herself wishing to console him. She would remember Boabdil one day in her future.
At the age of sixteen, Juana is sent to Flanders to wed Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. She surprisingly finds love; but when tragedy strikes Juana's family, she becomes the heir to the Spanish throne and is immediately thrust into a difficult battle for power against her husband that ends up involving the major monarchs of Europe and threatens to destroy their happy life. And like her mother before her, Juana of Castile vows to secure her crown and save Spain at any-and-all cost.
In the opening pages of The Last Queen, Juana says, "The conquest of Granada changed everything--for me and for Spain." Having read Gortner's portrayal of Juana's inspiring, yet tragic, story I must concur. Never before have I read such a moving, heartrending story of a woman's dedication to her country torn apart by a pack of greedy, power hungry individuals. Seeking only to do what is best for Spain, Juana must fight against Philip, his trusted advisors, other monarchs of Europe, and even people she has known for years. The reader immediately sympathizes with Juana's plight: not knowing who she can trust, being separated from loved ones, watching as her happy marriage fades away, and making the kinds of decisions that her mother had told her she would one day need to make.
The Last Queen is filled with many complex characters. Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who arrange marriages for their daughters to further their goals for Spain, Ferdinand's illegitimate daughter, Joanna, and Philip's sister Margaret. They join the cast of greedy, power hungry men such as Archbishop Besançon and Cisneros of Spain to create a fascinating story that will pull the reader in from the very first page. Simply put, once you begin reading, you will not be able to put this book down.
Gortner's eloquent style combined with his attention to detail and rich descriptions make this a must read for anyone interested in historical fiction, Spanish monarchs, power struggles between the monarchies of Europe, and those seeking to read a decidely different portrayal of Juana of Castile.
I highly recommend The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner and look forward to reading more from this talented author.
Title: The Last Queen - A Novel Author: C.W. Gortner Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 978-0-345-50185-1 (paperback) SRP: $14.00 (U.S.)