A beautifully-crafted piece of historical fiction, Gortner’s latest follows Queen Isabella of Castile, exploring the immense depth behind the woman who took a fractured country and fought to make it whole again. Though fragile at first, Isabella becomes a strong leader, driven by her own high morality and a divine obligation to her people. The court of Castile, imagined by Gortner through the eyes of this brave monarch, is a dangerous place filled with lies and treachery. Gortner's vivid details blend with his deeply intensive research to recreate Isabella and Castile in a way that the reader will find compelling and immersive, bringing not just the Queen but the whole nation to life. The fear, joy and anguish of the story all come together with a beauty and passion that can’t be found anywhere in the pages of history books.

Taken away from court when her father died, Isabella lived a frugal and devout life with her family in Arévalo. When her half brother, King Enrique IV of Castile, brings her and her brother back to the court that had shun them for so long, she clings to her faith to get her through the change. However, her simple life is shattered when exposed to the dark secrets and treacherous lies that hide in the corners of the court, and she can only try and rebuild herself to survive the struggles placed in front of her. Though suffering every disadvantage, fate challenges her to become a strong and fearless leader for her people — or risk the already tumultuous kingdom being torn apart forever.  (BALLANTINE, June, 379pp., $26.00)

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Reviewed by: 
Abigail Ortlieb