Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Last Queen

I read The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner this summer while I was on vacation. I had been introduced to the world of book blogging at that time and had wonderful things about this book all over the book blog world and just had to have it for my cruise. I brought it and one other book with me but admit that I spent every minute of my vacation (well every minute my husband would let me) reading this book. I was intrigued at the character of Juana who previously the only information I had about her was that she was mad and crazy over her husband Philip the Fair. I was delighted to learn that Juana was part of the powerful family of Isabel and Ferdinand (the very same who funded Columbus) as well as the older sister of the wronged Queen Katherine of Aragon. As soon as I started reading I was swept into Gortner's Spain. I was especially taken in with the description of the Moorish city Alhambra where Juana spent much of her youth. I enjoyed a glimpse Juana's childhood, especially her relationship with her sisters, as she developed from a strong willed girl to a determined and dogged woman.

Before reading Gortner's book I simply knew Juana as what history has painted her, mad. As I read The Last Queen and saw the circumstances and position that Juana was put in time and time again, by those closets to her and the ones who she trusted the most only to be betrayed and hurt by, it made her seem human. I feel like anyone put in her position time and time again the way she was would break and act out against those who hurt them. Many times when we read historical fiction we fail to realize that these people and events really happened. That life in courts at the time were filled with manipulation, betrayal, political maneuvering, and at times even death. To live among this day and in and day out sometimes without any knowledge of who to turn to or what the next day might unfold can be very frightening and overwhelming. In Juana's case as a woman surrounded by men who take advantage of her position it is not hard to see why her passions and indignation at her treatment would cause her to act out in a way that protocol at the time would dictate as crazy.
Gortner's ability to transform situations and take these real events and show us the workings behind them that cause Juana to act out is the beauty of this book and of her story. Combined with masterful storytelling and historical facts Gortner's Last Queen is a book I simply couldn't put down, at times to the dismay of my husband. I felt when i was finished reading that I understood Juana more as well as learned a great deal about Spanish history which I did not know before. One of the most amazing things I also discovered about this book was that the author C.W. Gortner is a man! I never thought a man would be able to convey a story through a woman's eyes and understand a woman's needs, fears, hopes, etc, as well as Gortner made Juana's.

And whats even more wonderful is that Gortner will be releasing a new book next year about Catherine Medici a woman that history has tainted so black as to call her Serpent Queen. I myself have a biased view on her being that I read a book about her husband and mistress that captivated me to no end. Still I feel that if anyone can change the way people view a character Gortner would be that author. In the same way he showed us that madness is not always what it seems I feel he can turn our views on the queen known to be the mastermind behind The Bartholomew Massacre. Needless to say i am dying to read his next book as well as anything else he might put out.


  1. I was really amazed that this was written by a man - I thought he did a great job of capturing Juana's spirit. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. I knew he was a man but I never thought very much farther than that. I think you brought an excellent point that he did vividly portray a womans point of view.

    I am glad you loved it as much as me it is a top favorite. I could not put it down either.

  3. You now have me wanting to read this.