Friday, July 24, 2009

The Last Queen by C W Gortner

Genre: Historical Fiction
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 400

Synopsis: In this stunning novel, C. W. Gortner brings to life Juana of Castile, the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who would become the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne. Along the way, Gortner takes the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England.

Born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify and strengthen their kingdom, Juana, at the age of sixteen, is sent to wed Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her dashing young husband, and at first she is content with her children and her married life. But when tragedy strikes and she becomes heir to the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it costs her everything.

My Review: 
Loved it, Loved it, Loved it! The Last Queen wins a permanent place in my bookcase, it's definitely a keeper! I've been in a bit of a historical fiction reading rut lately & C W Gortner's amazing tale of Juana of Castile lifted me out of that rut and straight onto the 'hot tamale' train.

In The Last Queen we are given a fresh perspective on the life of Juana, daughter of Queen Isabel & King Ferdinand of Spain and sister to Catalina otherwise known as Catherine of Aragon. At 16, she is betrothed to Philip of Flanders, heir to the Hapsburg throne and so begins an arranged marriage to improve Spain's political alliances. Juana & Philip's first years together are passionate and happy but following the death of her brother, sister and nephew, Juana becomes heir to the Spanish throne throwing her into a dangerous power struggle with her scheming husband.

C W Gortner’s portrayal of Juana in first person is extremely perceptive and moving. I was completely enthralled by the story, pulled in from the very first page and left stunned by the betrayal, cruelty & tragedy of Juana’s life. I like to think that rather than a descent into madness, this strong, courageous and passionate woman was maligned by her detractors to encourage prejudice and misunderstanding that has remained through the ages.

Surrounded by advisors loyal to Philip, manipulated and betrayed by her husband and then the father she adored, separated from her children, imprisoned, beaten and threatened, I see only reasonable and justifiable behaviour by a woman determined to secure the succession for her sons. Ok, and maybe a few emotionally distraught displays and flashes of temper but hey under the circumstances!!

Throughout the story I railed at the treachery of Archbishop Besancon & Cisneros of Spain and cheered on those few who gave their loyalty to Juana; Beatriz, Soraya, Lopez and the admiral, unfortunately their bravery alone was not enough to defeat men hungry for power.

Superb attention to detail, rich descriptions and a heartwrenching story of one woman’s dauntless courage make this an absolute must read. I truly cannot wait for this author’s next novel about Catherine de Medici.

To learn more about C W Gortner visit his website or blog ~ Historical Boys

Be sure to join me tomorrow for an interview with C W Gortner and giveaway of THE LAST QUEEN


  1. Thanks for the recommendation, sounds like one I would enjoy!

  2. I, too, really liked this book. I spent a good portion of it mad as a hornet at her familiy! :-)


  3. I also love this one and definitely will not part with it!

  4. Teddyree!

    What an awesome review and recommenation!

    I absolutely adore the cover art, it is spectacular. And, what is between the pages sounds even better. :)

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Have a great weekend.


  5. Great review! Thanks to your thoughts I just added this one to my wishlist.

  6. When you say you can't wait for the next one then i know this must have been great!!!! I read a Royal Diary about this person a while ago. I should try this more grown up version of her story!!

  7. I have been wanting to read this book for awhile - I have always been intrigued by Juana! I didn't know there was a new book about Catherine De'Medici coming out sometime soon.

  8. The book sure sounds good, but it would make me sad and angry. But good that there are people to cheer on even if it didn't work out

  9. You make this book sound so interesting. I must read it and learn about a time period and a person I know so very little about. Thanks for the great review.

  10. I LOVE historical fiction. This definately sounds like one I would like to read. I just read your author interview and enjoyed it! It's always nice to hear the author's perspective.

  11. Shawna Lewis

    Now I just have to buy this book it looks so amazing thanks for the review & by the way the cover is Beautiful!!!!

  12. I really like historical fiction. After reading your review of The Last Queen...I know that I have to read this book. It sounds fantastic!!!

  13. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book, I've heard only great things!! I've read books with Juana as a side character before but never one with her taking center stage...They say never judge a book by its cover but its hard not to just ADORE the cover art of this one! Thanks for the great review =)

  14. Thank you so much to Eclectic Reader for the lovely review and for hosting the contest; and thanks to all of you for the great comments! I wish I had more books to giveaway! Best of luck in the contest and I hope to visit again soon.
    All best,

  15. I've heard about this book, now you make me want to read it.



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