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The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon August 25th, 2008, 7:12 pm

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

This was an interesting book for me to read, it being the third one on Juana I have read this year, and first novelization of her life. So one might say that I was very into the book’s topic, especially as Islamic and renaissance Spain is an interest of mine.
It is difficult for me to really judge the book as I might any other historical fiction, because now that I know the topic so well, the only suspense was “I wonder what C.W. is going to do with that particular bit? And I’m happy to report that he did very well.

First, a little chiding, tho—Obviously well-researched though the rest of the book was, the opening bit at the surrender of Granada wasn’t, and though very probably nobody else will know, it nearly ruined the book for me at the outset. Granada surrendered peaceably; King Boabdil, who had spent many of his earlier years in Isabella’s court, (sometimes as a refugee, and sometimes as a hostage) negotiated a very wily treaty for Granada, in which he traded lands for himself and his nobles in the nearby Alpujarra. The Muslims of Granada were allowed to keep their mosques and practice their religion, along with many other municipal forms of government, and that all went reasonably well until Cisneros ignored the treaty some ten years later. Nobody jumped from the walls of the Alhambra, and the city surrendered more or less intact, although the surrounding vega was ravaged by ten years of war.
Okay, now that I have that off my chest, I enjoyed the book very much and those not nuts about Granada history will as well. Although the extreme religiosity of Juana’s character and her involvement with the Poor Clares was left out of this account (it doesn’t make for sympathy in today’s reading environment), many other little details were worked in nicely. The book’s pace quickens as treachery heaps on treachery, misfortune on misfortune, none of which had to be manufactured. If anything, the novel left about half the drama out, presumably to cater to the short attention span of the modern reader.
I liked the twist at the end, and for myself, think it very likely historically. In fact, I remember thinking when I was reading Bethany Aram’s ‘Juana the Mad, “I know what I’d have done if I were in her shoes.”
Gortner massages the facts a little so that you can feel empathy for the characters – the financial records show that Philip was a creep from the get-go, but it’s hard for a modern woman to understand how Juana could love him so passionately under those circumstances, so Philip’s more endearing qualities are emphasized. I liked the bit showing his abandonment by his father Maximilian and his constant seeking for a father-figure to lean on.
The character Gortner has given Juana is the one thing that enlivens a tale that history has painted in colors that otherwise might be too stark to be borne. Loved the portrayal of her upstaging Philip in the French court. The record does show that Juana made her choices for her children’s benefit, and that she had a will of iron.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about renaissance Spain. (For Moorish Spain, go read Washington Irving’s the Conquest of Granada.) The Last Queen is also quite an entertaining novel.
(I’m ditching the five-star system. This isn’t Amazon, after all.)

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Rowan
Bibliophile
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
Contact:

Postby Rowan » Sun September 14th, 2008, 2:31 pm

I saw an advert for this book on another site and came here to see if anyone had read it as the wording on the advert intrigued me. Unfortunately MLE's review didn't give me much to go on in understanding what this story is about. This is a summary of the book from Amazon:

The 1492 conquest of Granada makes for high adventure and royal intrigue in this second sparkling historical from Gortner (The Secret Lion). Spanish Princess Juana, 13, watches as her parents, King Fernando and Queen Isabel, unite Spain, vanquish Moors and marry their children off to foreign kingdoms for favorable alliances: Princess Catalina becomes first wife to Henry VIII; Princess Juana, who narrates, is shipped off to marry Philip of Flanders, heir to the Hapsburg Empire. Although Juana balks at leaving Spain for the north and a husband she has never met, their instant chemistry soon turns to love. Years and children later, Juana unexpectedly becomes next in line to the Spanish crown and must carefully navigate every step of the journey from Flanders to Spain, fearful of alienating husband or parents or both. Emotional and political tensions soar as Juana's loyalties are tested to their limits. Disturbing royal secrets and court manipulations wickedly twist this enthralling story, brilliantly told.
Last edited by Rowan on Sun September 14th, 2008, 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Clarification

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun September 14th, 2008, 8:30 pm

sorry for the lack of story, Rowan. In the original forum, mine was the second or third review on the thread, so describing the contents of the book would have been super-redundant. Maybe the other reviewers could go salvage their reviews and re-post them.
But you seem to have remedied the lack nicely.

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Tanzanite
Bibliophile
Location: Northern Virginia
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Postby Tanzanite » Sun September 14th, 2008, 9:54 pm

I liked this book a lot.

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Rowan
Bibliophile
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
Contact:

Postby Rowan » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:23 pm

"MLE" wrote:sorry for the lack of story, Rowan. In the original forum, mine was the second or third review on the thread, so describing the contents of the book would have been super-redundant. Maybe the other reviewers could go salvage their reviews and re-post them.
But you seem to have remedied the lack nicely.


Now that I know yours wasn't the first review, it makes sense that you only included your opinion. Still, I think the people who put together the advertisement on that other site did a bang up job of grabbing your attention! It flicked between a small box that said 'History Says She Went Mad for Love', then a new graphic says 'But History Can Lie' then the title of the book is shown.

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amyb
Reader
Location: Atlanta, GA
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Postby amyb » Mon September 15th, 2008, 3:06 pm

I really enjoyed this book and getting to know Juana.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Mon September 15th, 2008, 3:25 pm

I've got this one on preorder along with Devil's Brood and looking forward to reading it. Although, DB and The Time of Singing are going to come first :) :p

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LCW
Compulsive Reader
Location: Southern California

Postby LCW » Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:07 pm

I have this book to read and am looking forward to it!
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

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Julianne Douglas
Avid Reader
Location: Northern California

Postby Julianne Douglas » Mon September 15th, 2008, 8:08 pm

I have a review of The Last Queen and an interview with Christopher up on my blog.
Julianne Douglas

Writing the Renaissance

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michellemoran
Bibliophile
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Postby michellemoran » Wed September 17th, 2008, 2:39 am

This was such a wonderful novel! I knew almost nothing about Juana La Loca before I picked this up, and what I did know was very probably wrong. Such a a sad life... yet Christopher's writing flows so well that there's a hopefulness to it. A truly epic story.
Visit MichelleMoran.com
Check out Michelle's blog History Buff at michellemoran.blogspot.com


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