#98 ~ The Last Queen

September 4, 2008 at 12:00 am | Posted in Books | 17 Comments
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The Last Queen: A Novel by C.W. Gortner

I am pleased to publish this review as one of the stops on C.W. Gortner’s Virtual Book Tour!

The Last Queen tells the story of middle child of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, Juana. She watched her parents take back the country of Spain from the Moors and return it to a united country. She also was witness to the Spanish Inquisition meant to unify the country under the Roman Catholic Church. She was never meant to rule, but as a series of deaths befell the children and grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand, Juana was left to take over as Queen of Castille upon the death of her mother. The one thing that Juana had in common with her mother, being married to a man whose wealth and title were dwarfed by her own, proved to be a battle of a lifetime for Juana.

I enjoyed the picture Gortner painted of the young Juana, loving to explore the world and willing to push the limits of propriety to do so. Despite her independence and drive, her somewhat sheltered existence made it possible for her to fall under the charms of her husband, Phillip the Handsome. He is painted as a good hearted man who gave in to his advisers who fed his lust for power. As Juana stood in his way, her heart got trampled over and over again. When her mother dies, Juana fights for what’s best for her homeland, desperately hoping that there are those who will fight with her.

It was no surprise when I read C.W. Gortner’s bio and learned that he is of Spanish decent. It could be sensed in his writing and the way that he wrote about Spain and his characters. When Juana wrote of her love of her country, she was speaking through the author. He treated the faults and mistakes of the leaders who shaped the future of Spain with respect and sympathy. They may have been sovereign leaders, but they were human. It is a blessing to have your history told to the ages by someone as who speaks with honesty driven by love.

There is only one aspect of this novel that tripped me up at times – the use of Spanish when the story was written in English. The terms of endearment did not bother me, but to read a sentence in Spanish and then have it translated into English again by the narrator brought me out of the story. I was able to catch the meaning of those Spanish sentences with me weak Spanish and the context of the paragraph. Even without any exposure to Spanish, I don’t believe the translation back into English was necessary.

On its own, this novel was intriguing, but after having read so much about Juana’s youngest sister, Catherine of Aragon, and Tudor England, I found this story absolutely fascinating. It was unfortunate how the lives of Isabella and Ferdinand’s children played out. With the possible exception of Marie, they all met tragic and heartbreaking fates: their eldest children died young, Juana lived out much of her adulthood in isolation to keep her from the thrown, and Catherine wasted her youth patiently awaiting her destiny to be the Queen of England only to spend her last years valiantly and perhaps stubbornly claiming to have never lost that crown. Whether it was simply bad luck or bad karma from the Inquisition, this family had a cosmic thumb pressed down upon them. Juana dealt with the storms of her life with grace, dignity and strength. Her life might have been tragic, but when told by someone as passionate about his subject and as skilled an author as Gortner, reading about her life was one of my most pleasing reading experiences this year.

If that’s not enough to entice you to read this novel, here’s more from the author:

To buy this novel, click here.


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  1. Thanks so much to Literate Housewife for hosting me on my blog tour. I’m honored by this sincere and erudite review, and am truly delighted to be here. I’ll be stopping by throughout the next month to answer any reader comments and/or questions. To learn more about me, my work, and to see an exciting book trailer exploring the mystery surrounding Juana la Loca, please visit me at: http://www.cwgortner.com

  2. […] author of the historical ficton novel, THE LAST QUEEN, will be stopping off at Fictionary and The Literate Housewife! The Last Queen tells the legendary story of Juana la Loca, daughter of Isabel of Castile and […]

  3. This was a fantastic review for a really fantastic book. Now I want to go and reread my copy, it was so great.

  4. C.W. thank you so much for visiting! I will check out the book trailer and update my post for my readers. Are you working on a new novel? If so, what will it be about? If I had one question from your novel, it would be about Juana’s sister Marie’s reaction to what was happening to her family. I would like to learn more about her next.
    Dev, thank you so much! It was your review that made we want to read this in the first place. This is definitely a book I will be reading again.

  5. I loved this book and cannot wait to read more from him. It doesn’t hurt that he is such a nice guy too!

  6. “cosmic thumb pressed down upon them” is such a great line. I am fully enticed! Not only is this something I would enjoy, but I know a history buff who would absolutely LOVE this book. Thanks for sharing this review, I’m going to get the book today. 🙂

    Thanks also for bringing the Darfur conflict to the forefront on your blog. We’re a global society and it’s so important to do whatever we can to raise awareness.

  7. Hi everyone! Thanks so much for your kind words and high praise; I’m very honored.

    Juana’s sister Maria is actually the least known of Isabel’s daughters, and apparently the most fortunate, at least as far as her marriage was concerned. We know she was quite pious and stayed with her mother until she wed the king of Portugal following her elder sister Isabella’s death. But she died in her 35th year. The last glimpse we have of her in history is riding an elephant in a procession in Lisbon, celebrating her husband’s acquisitions in Africa. Juana actually outlived all her siblings, including Catherine of Aragon, who died 23 years before her.

    I too must thank you for bringing attention to the Darfur conflict, which I feel very passionate about. As Denise said, we’re a global society and we need to start acting like one.

    Amy, thank you!

  8. Oh, I forgot! I’ve just finished my new novel on Catherine de Medici, which Ballantine will be publishing in 2009.

  9. Amy and Denise, thank you so much!
    Denise, I can’t wait to hear what you think of the book. Regarding Darfur, I can’t take any credit. This originated with Maw Books. I’m so proud of her. We are a global society and it only makes sense that if we enjoy the stories about other countries and lands that we support them, right?

  10. Congratulations! I was checking out all the nominees for the Book Blogger Appreciation Awards and trying to live up to my nomination by inviting everyone over to Semicolon tomorrow for the Saturday Review of Books. It’s just a place I provide each Saturday to leave links to your book reviews for the week, and you’re certainly invited to contribute and to enjoy the reviews by other book bloggers.

  11. Thanks, Sherry! I will check your Saturday Review of Books tomorrow morning. That sounds like a great source for book review information. Good luck to you on the voting!!!

  12. sounds like a great book, excellent review!

  13. […] hosted C.W. Gortner on his blog tour on Tuesday and published my review of his delightful novel, The Last Queen.  Please feel free to keep leaving comments and questions for him.  He’ll be coming back […]

  14. Hi Jenn~
    I’m sitting here at work and, literally, just finished The Last Queen. It was a wonderful book. Thank you so much for sending it to me. 🙂 I’m passing it on to Elizabeth at As Usual I Need More Bookshelves.

  15. Hey Jenn,
    I just posted my thoughts on ‘The Last Queen’. I loved it but think the review repeats itself. Oh well maybe today wasn’t the day to write. Thanks again for sending me book.

  16. I loved this one, too. Great review, Jenn, as always!

  17. […] during my reading.  The Monsters of Templeton, Wicked, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Last Queen, Gardens of Water, The Thirteenth Tale, The Other Boleyn Girl, Innocent Traitor, The Witch’s […]

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