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The Queen's Vow

Cover of The Queen's Vow

The Queen's Vow

A Novel of Isabella of Castile
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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. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother's home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her--Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under "one crown, one country, one faith," Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella's resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen's Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

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. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother's home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her--Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under "one crown, one country, one faith," Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella's resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen's Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter Two

    Gortner / THE QUEEN'S VOW

    chapter one

    Hold the reins firmly, Isabella. Don't let him sense your fear. If he does, he'll think he's in control and he'll try to throw you."

    Perched atop the elegant black stallion, I nodded, gripping the reins. I could feel the taut leather through the weather-­worn tips of my gloves. Belatedly I thought I should have let Beatriz's father, Don Pedro de Bobadilla, buy me the new gloves he had offered for my recent thirteenth birthday. Instead, pride--­a sin I tried hard, but usually failed, to overcome--­had refused to let me admit our penury by accepting the gift, though he lived with us and surely knew quite well how impoverished we were. Just as pride hadn't let me refuse my brother's challenge that it was time I learned to ride a proper horse.

    So, here I sat, with old leather gloves that felt thin as silk to protect my hands, atop a magnificent animal. Though it was not a large horse it was still frightening; the creature shifted and pawed the ground as though it were ready to bolt at any moment, regardless of whether I could stay on or not.

    Alfonso shook his head, leaning from his roan to pry my fingers further apart, so that the reins draped through them.

    "Like that," he said. "Firm, but not so firm that you'll injure his mouth. And remember to sit straight when you canter and lean forward at a gallop. Canela isn't one of those stupid mules you and Beatriz ride. He's a purebred Arabian jennet, worthy of a caliph. He needs to know his rider is in charge at all times."

    I straightened my spine, settling my buttocks on the embossed saddle. I felt light as a thistle. Though I was of an age when most girls begin to develop, I remained so flat and thin that my friend and lady-­in-­waiting Beatriz, Don Bobadilla's daughter, was constantly cajoling me to eat more. She eyed me now with concern, her significantly more curvaceous figure so gracefully erect upon her dappled gelding that it seemed she'd been riding one her entire life, her thick black hair coiled above her aquiline features under a fillet and veil.

    She said to Alfonso, "I assume Your Highness has ensured this princely jennet of yours is properly broken. We wouldn't want anything untoward to happen to your sister."

    "Of course he's broken. Don Chacón and I broke him ourselves. Isabella will be fine. Won't you, hermana?"

    Even as I nodded, near-­paralyzing doubt overcame me. How could I possibly be expected to show this beast that I was in charge? As if he sensed my thoughts, Canela pranced sideways. I let out a gasp, yanking at the reins. He came to a snorting halt, ears flattened, clearly displeased at the effort I'd exerted on his bit.

    Alfonso winked at me. "See? She can handle him." He looked at Beatriz. "Do you need any assistance, my lady?" he asked, in a jocular tone that hinted at his years of verbal sparring with our castle custodian's headstrong only daughter.

    "I can manage fine, thank you," said Beatriz tartly. "Indeed, Her Highness and I will both be fine as soon as we get a feel for these Moorish steeds of yours. Lest you forget, we have ridden before, even if our mounts were, as you say, only stupid mules."

    Alfonso chuckled, pivoting on his roan with practiced ease for his mere ten years. His brilliant blue eyes glistened; his thick fair hair, shorn bluntly at his shoulders, enhanced his full, handsome face. "And lest you forget," he said, "I've been riding every day since I was five. It is experience that makes for good horsemanship."

    "True," rumbled Alfonso's governor, Don Chacón, from his own massive horse. "The Infante Alfonso is already an...

About the Author-
  • C. W. Gortner's historical novels have garnered international praise and been translated into fourteen languages. He divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.

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    Random House Publishing Group
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