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The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  6,850 ratings  ·  646 reviews
No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gor
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Ballantine Books
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3.91  · 
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 ·  6,850 ratings  ·  646 reviews

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Kate Quinn
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Spain is difficult for historical fiction readers. Say "Spain" and thoughts trigger of bullfights, bloodshed, torture, and religious fanaticism. Spanish figures in many HF novels are usually saints (heroic, devout Katherine of Aragon), or villains (the evil Armada bearing down on poor beleaguered Elizabeth I). And true, much of Spain's history IS dark, blood-drenched, and overhung by religion. But C.W. Gortner does something remarkable in "The Queen's Vow" - he takes this country and its complic ...more
Alice Poon
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was an engrossing and educational read about the reign of Isabella I of Castile, a bodacious female monarch who made her indelible mark on Spanish history. The timeline of the story stretched from 1464 (when she was 13 and an infante, 2nd in line to the throne) to 1492 (when she reached her 41st year).

Her early life before her coronation in 1474 was mostly spent as a captive in the Palace of Segovia, entrusted to the care of her half-brother King Enrique VI, whose consort gave birth to an a
Rio (Lynne)
I've not been looking forward to rating this one. I am a big fan of Gortner. I have pre-ordered his last 3 books and The Last Queen is one of my hands down favorites. The only way I can peg what went wrong with this one, was simply too much detail. Gortner's other books have always moved and been page turners. This one was lacking that. It just felt flat. I felt I could skim 5 pages and didn't miss much. In his other reads we felt for the characters and cheered them on. Even the evil Catherine d ...more
Jun 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Where I got the book: ARC from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.

This is a worthy novel by a popular writer, and yet somehow it leaves me flat. I suspect I'm not the right reader for this book; for one thing, I am rather tired of histfic about the crowned heads of Europe, even if--primed by The Tudors and Wolf Hall--I was receptive to learning some more about the mother of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first of many. I'd much rather read about an ordinary guy or gal for a change.

Amy Bruno
Another magnificent release by C.W. Gortner! He excels at bringing the indomitable Queen Isabella of Castile to life in this gripping and unputdownable novel! Highly recommended!
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in medieval spain
After my semi rant about there not being enough fiction about Isabella, I was ecstatic when I saw this book.

A story from a notable historical fiction author about a woman and her husband who, in a highly patriarchical age, made Spain from

to -> ?

Yes, please!

As this is my first time reading fiction on Isabella, I have to say I'm impressed at the author's research into the time period. He certainly isn't shy about weaving abundant historical commentary into the narrative, and his treatment o
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I consider myself a historic fiction reader. It is my primary stomping ground and the genre I feel I am most competent reviewing and yet, for some inexplicable reason it took me nine years to pick up and read anything by C.W. Gortner. How did I manage such as oversight you ask? I have not the slightest idea, but I will say, having read both The Queen's Vow and The Tudor Conspiracy within weeks of one another, that Gortner ha
Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews)
Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!

4.5 out of 5

The Queen's Vow is a great first introduction to a well-known and well-recommended historical fiction author. I've heard and seen C.W. Gortner's name bandied about frequently as one of the best for compelling, researched and still original novels and every claim is only reinforced by my reading experience with this novel about Castile's complicated and dramatic queen. Without condescension or annoying repetition, this mostly-factual stor
Michelle Miller (True Book Addict)
I could not put this book down! As he did with Juana of Castile in The Last Queen, Gortner has once again taken a historical queen and made her as interesting and exciting as any modern day heroine. It's interesting to me how little I knew of Isabella of Spain; one who was so instrumental in allowing Columbus to open the way for the future settlement of what would become America. Of course, that is what we were taught when I was in elementary school so many years ago. The implications of what ca ...more
Teresa Gibson
This book should be subtitled: Isabella Tells You All About Her Reign, because that is what Gortner does--TELLS you what happened. The narrative is full of passive description: we did this, we did that, the reason for this was, the reason for that was... I could skip paragraphs and never really miss anything. The first rule a fiction writer learns is "show, don't tell." When Gortner did show action, as in the early part of the novel dealing with Isabella's brother Alfonso and her half-brother En ...more
Jenny Q
4.5 Stars! I'll tell you right off the bat that I did not know much about Isabella of Castille before reading The Queen's Vow, though she had been a minor character in one or two novels I'd read and had not been portrayed very favorably. I knew she was responsible for religious persecution and the discovery of the New World, and that she's a controversial historical figure who has her share of lovers and haters. What I'm trying to say is that I'm not qualified to judge if this is an accurate por ...more
Cheeky Cher
2 stars - Meh. Just ok.

Ironically, the best part of this novel was the author’s afterword. I feel a nonfiction book written by him would be stronger than his historical fiction novels, at least judging off of this one. To be fair, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici was a far more satisfying read.

Prior to reading this I was fascinated by the story of Isabella of Castile but found this novel about her to progress very slowly, especially the back half. It focused heavily on her persecution of o
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are few who don’t know who Isabella of Castile is (shame on them!). Whether you view her as a warrior Queen or as someone who mistreated Jews; there is undeniably an enigma attached to her person. C.W. Gortner explores this queen in “A Queen’s Vow” following her childhood to her well-documented adult years.

Gortner immediately plunges the reader into intrigue with “The Queen’s Vow” without a “formal” introduction to Isabella (but it works to the novel’s benefit). Gortner’s scenery descripti
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous book, in one of my favorite genres- historical fiction about powerful women. Well imagined, well researched and wonderfully drawn. Could not put this book down. A must read!
Gina Denny
This was like an origins story. She doesn't become queen until about seventy percent of the way through the novel, and the most interesting and controversial deeds of her lifetime are not documented Instead, we see her as a preteen, mooning over a boy she met for two days. Which, by the way, didn't happen. She didn't meet her husband until their wedding. So the WHOLE THRUST of this novel, the basis of her character, IS FALSE.

I don't think you get to sell it as "historical" when you invent the b
Lady Em
Jun 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one I consider a friend or aquaintance
Recommended to Lady Em by: Hah!
I have discovered that when an author decides to write one book right after another about women occupying various positions in history, always famous or infamous depending on one's viewpoint, from most European nations, and from most significant historical eras, to include the WWI/WWII years, a pattern emerges.

That pattern is a superficial portrait, told in first person, of Princess A or Queen B or Empress C or Actress D or Designer E, with a great deal of equally superficial character developme
Carole Rae
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read by C.W Gortner and the first I've read about Queen Isabella.

I've always been pretty neutral to Queen Isabella and her husband due to the fact that I'm not a huge fan of their daughter Catalina (aka Queen Catherine of England) and how they helped find the Americas. However, my eye was drawn to this at the library in the 'New Book' section and I decided to learn some more of her journey to becoming legend. Now that her tale is done, I am in awe of her. I actually
Tara Chevrestt
I think C.W. Gortner is a man, so I was exceptionally surprised and pleased at the woman's POV being done so well. Her insecurities, her love for her husband, her strengths and weaknesses were so real to me. To be honest, I didn't expect to like this queen. She was behind the murder of so many...but the last part of the book, the Inquisition, showed me another side and reason to it all. Same history, different POV.

I preferred the beginning of the book. Young Isabella, her friend, Beatriz, her pa
Heather Webb
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Gortner's novel of Isabella was a refreshing change from the typical England-based historical fiction with its vivid backdrops of sun-drenched Spain. A talented writer, Gortner illustrates an intriguing portrait of one of the world's most fascinating, yet least exploited queens--her multi-faceted nature, her strengths as a leader in women's rights and political affairs, her weaknesses as a religious zealot for her Catholic faith. Despite the queen's often vicious dealings, Gortner has taken the ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: Every book I have read by C.W. Gortner has been amazing. And yes, I've actually read all of them. Every time I pick up something with Gortner's name on it, I am completely transported to a different time and place with powerful characters and a vivid setting that comes to life. Gortner's work always impresses, so my expectations going into The Queen's Vow were very, very high.

The Queen's Vow follows the rarely-explored life of Isabella of Castile, best known as something a "warrior q
I'm debating the three stars for this one and might change it later.

As a purely fun historical fiction romp, "The Queen's Vow" is partially successful. It has some nice little drama going on in the court of Castile, the tumultuous marriage of Fernando and Isabella (which was not nearly dramatic, I suspect, in reality). C.W. Gortner does a good job of layering on that constant worry over an heir, the travails of la Beltraneja and the threat she stood (though he tended towards some awful misogyny
I won this from the Goodreads first reads program! I'm so exited to read it. I have heard good things about CW Gortner books, and have been wanting to read one for awhile! :)

I enjoyed this book, my first venture into 'spanish' historical fiction. I have always been intrigued by Isabella & Ferdinand, so I was thrilled to have won a copy of "Queen's Vow". We start her journey in the book when Isabella is but a mere 3year old child. From the beginning, her existence was precarious and fraught w
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Since my two visits to Spain and one to Portugal I have a bit of a crush on Iberia so I jumped at the chance to review this book. I was mildly disappointed because I had expected a bit more from the book, yet once I got into it, it did hold my interest and I loved reading about places I had actually seen in my visits.

There is some minor manipulation of history that Gortner owns up to and perhaps a too kind view of Isabel. Gortner seems to want to put more of the onus on Fernando for the Spanish
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Isabella of Castile was never meant to be queen. Today an image of this formidable Renaissance monarch has survived that is alternately admired for her contributions to art, literature, and education, or castigated for her role in bringing the notorious Inquisition to Spain and the forcible expulsion of those Jewish subjects who refused to renounce their faith and embrace Catholicism. Arguably -- and understandably -- much of the focus of history is on the darker aspects of Isabella's reign, a l ...more
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
Another excellent historical novel from CW Gortner. I appreciated that he didn't try to shy away from or gloss over the events in Isabella's reign which are looked on as unsavory nowadays.
Heather C
I have been a fan of Gortner’s work since I picked up my first read of his, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. He has a talent of taking maligned or misunderstood women and making them approachable characters whom readers can identify with and attempt to understand their choices. His novel of Isabella of Castile is no different. Isabella is remembered by history as the Spanish queen who re-incited the Inquisition, the mother of Catherine of Aragon and Juana la Loca, and the queen who financ ...more
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A copy of The Queen's Vow was provided to me by Random House for review purposes.

C.W. Gortner is well known for his historical fiction novels and I have been interested in reading his works for many years. This being my first one, I was impressed. His detailing of Isabella is almost sedulous with how painstaking it is. While he painted an extremely detailed portrait of Isabella, I'm not positive he painted her as accurately as she is known for being.

Isabella I of Castile w
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in History
Shelves: 2015, english
I'm a Spaniard myself and I really liked this portrait of Isabel (not Isabella, for God's sake!), and Fernando. "The queen's Vow" has amaze me and surprise me a lot and and I recommended to all of you who are curious about the Catholic Monarchs, and want to know the motives behind each action of them (more importantly of Isabel's actions, because she is not the darkest and cruel figure as most people think. Yes, she is the most important monarch of Spanish history, obviously she has her bad acti ...more
May 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, which shows original links that were inserted.

Gortner enjoys writing of female monarchs who may have been vilified or misunderstood, and his newest novel is no different. Queen Isabella is most remembered for her role in the Spanish Inquisition and for funding Cristobal Colon's voyage. Was she a money hungry, blood thirsty monarch, with ethnic cleansing views similar to Hitler? That would be open to interpretation, and Gortner uses his research to try an
Sophie Noel
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sophie by: I read it for school
Shelves: historical, ugh

The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner is a historical fiction about Isabel of Castile, the famous queen most popularly known for leading the Spanish Inquisition. The book begins during Isabel's childhood, when her family finds out that her half-brother Enrique has an heir, and Isabel believes there's no chance of her or her brother ever ascending to the throne.

I, personally, had lots and lots of problems with this book. But I am one who spends my days reading science fiction and fantasy, so I underst
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Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at for more information.
“The world is only as small as we see it, my lady. Imagination knows no limits.” 17 likes
“Though I strived for spiritual and physical unity in all of Spain, I believed a truly great country, one that would endure for centuries, must be built on the foundation of a literate and well-rounded society.” 1 likes
More quotes…