I’m so excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Queen’s Vow, by C.W. Gortner – I had the pleasure of reading this in 2012 and couldn’t wait to pose some questions about the book which transported me into history…….my review follows also. I hope everyone is inspired to read this – it is a firm favourite of mine and was a joy to read.
Did you visit any of the sites from the book prior to writing it, (are there any ruins left from the castles, or the household in Arevalo?), or do you draw mostly from your experience of growing up in Southern Spain and your love of history?
Though I often rely on my own experiences and love of history, I still think traveling to the sites where my characters lived is a must. Fortunately, Spain is one of my homes and favorite places to visit; while the landscape has greatly changed from Isabella's time, there are still a significant number of extant sites associated with her -- all of which I visited to re-trace Isabella's footsteps and are featured in The Queen's Vow . Her childhood home, the castle of Arévalo, is about 2 hours from Madrid and sits on a desolate escarpment in a truly forbidding landscape. The city of Avila, with its massive medieval walls, is about an hour from there. In central Castile, Segovia is the site of the world-famous alcazar, every girl’s fantasy palace, with its peaked turrets and curving fortifications— ironic, given how dangerous life within its vaulted halls was for young Isabella. Traveling about 7 hours south is Sevilla, and its beautiful alcazar built by the Moors and expanded by subsequent rulers, where a troubled Isabella arrived shortly after her coronation. Córdoba, capital of the Moors until the 13th century, has the exquisite red-columned mezquita, or mosque, and Palace of the Catholic Kings on the edge of the Guadalquivir River. Another 3 hours up to the mountains is the magnificent citadel of Granada, site of that most renowned of places associated with Isabella: the Alhambra.
Do you have a favourite character from The Queen's Vow?
I try not to play favorites, otherwise I fear that it will show through in the text and reflect poorly on my other characters. When I'm working on a novel, the cast becomes my surrogate family; I like some characters more than others, naturally, given their disparate personalities, but I want to stay true to each one and give him or her my very best in terms of reflecting their reality for the reader. Even Torquemada has a reason for what he does; it may not be pleasant, but he does have his own beliefs, his strengths and weaknesses. That said, my lead character - in this case, Isabella herself - is always going to come first in my overall affection. I really felt as though I came to understand her during the process of bringing her to life for this novel; I struggled with her as she fought for her throne and wrestled with her doubts; I recoiled at times from her sense of self-righteousness and moral inflexibility, and always stood in awe of her courage and passion. She was not an easy woman to get to know but in the end, I feel she was worth the effort.
If you had to cast Isabella and Ferdinand in a movie, who would you choose to play their roles?
This is always such a tough question for me! I "see" the characters when I write them both emotionally and physically; they become their own distinct persons and thus, it's challenging to try and clothe them in another's skin, such as that of an actor or actress. For Isabella, perhaps Emma Roberts or Lea Seydoux; for Fernando, Max Irons or Aaron Johnson. The actors would have to be young, but able to convey that complex range of experience and of maturity that both Isabella and Fernando had, even in their teen years.
Thank you so much for taking this time with me. I hope your readers enjoy The Queen's Vow. To find out more about me and my books, please visit me at www.cwgortner.com
Title: The Queen’s Vow
Author: C.W. Gortner
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: January 2013
ISBN: 978 1444720792
Rating: 5/5 with merits
The cover on this looks fairly ornate, with swirling embossed gold leaf detail to the sides of the Queen on the cover.
First off, I have to say WOW!!! I adored this book. This blew my mind with the stunning amount of detail and thought that has gone into each and every page. I haven’t read much historical fiction recently, so this was a pure delight to read and immerse myself in. If time machines were books, then this is a gem of a time machine. I know I have to give it a rating, as with all my reviews here, but this blows the top off my rating system….that sounds really gushy…but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and my praise is very well deserved. This is storytelling at its very best - when it feels so very real the characters aren’t just on the page anymore.
The Queen’s Vow details Isabella’s life from childhood right up to her ascension to become Queen of Castile alongside her husband Ferdinand. Prior to this book I had a teeny semblance of an idea as to her life, mainly that of the Spanish Inquisition. The Queen’s Vow took me on an unforgettable journey with Isabella. Her passion for Castile was a running theme throughout the book. I saw how she was treated, and how despicable many of the male characters were – I really wanted to reach through the pages and slap many of them for their actions!!! I could really feel the way in which women during this time were treated, along with how corrupt and self serving many of those in Court were. I was shocked at how little regard Isabella’s half brother had for her and how weasly those he surrounded himself with were.
I got to know Isabella and her formidable characteristics. I saw through her eyes how women were treated, and how she strived to make women’s lives better. I appreciated how well ahead of her time she was, especially when she commissioned a printing press and set about making learning accessible for all, as well as being totally devout to her religion and a faithful wife. I felt her pain when she miscarried and her joy when her son was born, along with the bittersweet birth of her daughters which had less value in society even with their heritage.
The Queen’s Vow swept me away through the passages of time so I was with Isabella throughout the book. I really did feel like I was surrounded by history and real life characters. This is historical fiction at its best. Thank you so much C.W.Gortner! What a high bar you’ve set with this book!
A compelling novel which reimagines the early years of one of history's most notorious queens in all their passion, treachery and bloodshed. 'I am Isabella, Queen of Castile ...' Isabella was the notorious warrior-queen who, along with her husband Ferdinand, transformed Spain forever. Popular belief has her as a religious fanatic persuaded into the horrific excesses of the Inquisition by her confessor, Torquemada; but C W Gortner paints a picture of her early life, showing us a headstrong, passionate girl who grew into the most powerful queen Spain ever knew and whose vision and imagination allowed Columbus to discover America.
Source- Many thanks to the publisher, an ARC was received in return for a honest review.