The Queen's Vow is the story of Isabella of Castile, the Isabella of FerdinandandIsabella fame, the mother of Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Told in first person, author C.W. Gortner brings this fascinating woman to life from the time she was a young teenager until she sponsors the man we know as Christopher Columbus. Isabella begins her life as the almost forgotten younger sister of Enrique, King of Castile; once remembered, however, her life is never the same as she begins years long battles for a throne that would eventually be hers. Isabella is always strong, if often beleaguered by the men in her life, but her one constant is the love she shares with Ferdinand (known as Fernando in this novel).
The writing in this novel is quite strong, and Gortner is able to share Isabella's feelings very well. The descriptions of the places, people, and era often place the reader directly inside the action; in particular, his descriptions of the sea and Isabella's faithful friend Beatriz are well done, making both sparkle with life (in different ways, of course!). I was amazed at how plausible Gortner was able to make many of Isabella's decisions seem, almost as though he had experienced the travails of ruling himself. I also loved the actual vocabulary Gortner uses; he chooses words that stretch the reader and imply that an intelligence is required for understanding. While I don't necessarily accept Isabella's initial tolerance of the Jewish population of her country, nor her reluctance to implement the Inquisition, I was willing to give credence to Gortner's explanations simply because they are so well written. This is a novel to be savored, both for its rich historical tale and also for its written beauty.