Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
Since I knew Queen Isabella was the financier of Columbus, a force behind the Spanish Inquisition, and the mother of Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, I thought I would find this book about her interesting, but that was an underestimation because Isabella: The Warrior Queen turned out to be a treasure trove of fascinating information and stories. About Columbus the book has more detail than I expected, also covering early European interactions with various groups of Native Americans. About the Inquisition the book gives religious context and history that were unfamiliar to me, and after reading about Catherine of Aragon’s early life I have a greater understanding of and appreciation for her as a woman of strength and principle.
Also woven into the narrative is information about: the lives and historical impacts of Isabella’s other children, the balance of power in Isabella’s relationship with her husband Ferdinand (according to this account she was the one who was “more equal”), and fairly extensive background histories of European royal families and their politics, Islam’s presence on the Iberian Peninsula, the evolving role of the papacy, and the nature and progress of the Ottoman Empire. Isabella was a much stronger monarch than I realized, but she’s humanized here and I ended up liking her which wasn’t something I expected.
Author Kirstin Downey has taken obvious care to be fair and respectful to all parties in Isabella’s story, and without doing a lot of undocumented speculation about her subjects’ inner feelings, her book is written in a vivid, engaging style that had me hooked from its opening chapter. I kept finding myself rushing back to its pages the way you do when reading a gripping novel.
I received an advanced review copy of this book. Review opinions are mine.