Friday, February 5, 2010

Book Review: The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
"One of history's most enigmatic women tells the haunting, passionate story of her tumultuous life. Juana of Castile is just thirteen when she witnesses the fall of Moorish Granada and uniting of the fractured kingdoms of Spain under her warrior parents, Isabel and Fernando. Intelligent and beautiful, proud of her heritage, Juana rebels against her fate when she is chosen as a bride for the Hapsburg heir - until she arrives in Flanders and comes face-to-face with the prince known as Philip the Fair, a man who will bring her the greatest of passions, and the darkest despair. One by one, tragedy decimates Juana's family in Spain. Suddenly, she finds herself heiress to Castile - a realm on the verge of chaos, prey to avaracious nobles and scheming lords bent on thwarting her rule. Juana vows to win her throne, until the betrayal of those she loves plunges her into a ruthless battle of wills - a struggle of corruption, perfidy, and heart-shattering deceit that could cost her the crown, her freedom, and her very life. From the somber majesty of Renaissance Spain to the glittering courts of Flanders, France and Tudor England, Juana of Castile reveals her life and secrets in this captivating historical novel of romance, grandeur, power and treachery by the acclaimed author of "The Secret Lion.""

My Review:

Juana of Castile, daughter to the revered King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, wife of Phillip heir to the Habsburg Empire, and a mother of six. She was used as a pawn to further greedy ambitions, then viewed as a threat to those ambitions. Her enemies warped her image, leaving history to remember her as Juana la Loca...but what would she want history to remember her as?

Juana is only thirteen in the beginning of this story. Through her we witness the fall of Granada and what it is like to be the daughter of the strong Queen Isabella. Her stubborn and determined character is quickly apparent, and we see that this is no ordinary princess. Juana defiantly refuses her mothers demand to wed her to a foreign betrothed until her indulging father gives her a choice in the mater. She can either forgo the betrothal and marry a Spaniard or she can help protect Spain by honoring the betrothal. The choice is clear to Juana, she would do anything for Spain...

At sixteen Juana is sure her future is doomed to be bleak as she sails to Flanders and the court of her soon to be husband, Phillip heir to the Habsburg Empire. What she finds in Philip is more then she could ever have hoped for. A love forms that is so strong, Juana feels nothing could tear them apart. They are blessed with children and Juana is more content then she ever thought possible, until tragedy strikes...

Juana soon learns no one is to be trusted. Greed and ambition is in the heart of everyone around her and sinister plots become abundant. Even as Juana's world is crumbling around her, she never looses her strength or desire to help Spain. She is now the chosen heir of Castile, and she will never stop fighting to claim what is hers and save Spain from its enemies....

This was am excellent book! It grabbed me right from the beginning and never let me go. While reading the book, it is obvious how much time and effort was put into it. It did not matter that I have not read many books set in Spain, because the authors vivid detail took me there in person. The characters were extremely three dimensional; they were so real I found myself wanting to jump in and tell some of them a thing or two. The last page of the book was a perfect and beautiful close to Juana's story...I read it twice! I absolutely loved this novel; its a lovely and heartfelt story of a woman whom history should know more about.

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