CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2000
Segovia 19th of February 1466Isabel: Jewel of Castilla traces the life of Isabel of Castilla from Ash Wednesday, February, 1466, to her wedding day in October, 1469. Isabel was a devout Catholic. At the request of her confessor, she uses the journal to record and reflect on her commission of the Deadly Sins. The purpose of the journal quickly broadens and becomes a record of Isabel's life.
These are turbulent times. Isabel's brothers Enrique and Alfonso are at war over the lands that comprise modern day Spain and Portugal. Isabel is used as a pawn. Her brother Enrique has the power to marry her off to whomever he pleases. He also controls her cash flow, which he promises and then does not follow through. After the death of Alfonso, Enrique double-crosses Isabel, and she sides with Archbishop Carrillo who masterminds her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon.
It is important to know that Isabel is an ardent Catholic for she and her husband reigned over the Spanish Inquisition. This point, which is made early in the book as Isabel records her Deadly Sins, may slow down some readers' entry into this book. However, once the opening pages are read, the book takes off, and it is hard to put down. Isabel is a strong and resourceful woman, as are many of the women in her court.
The volume is attractively bound with a painting of Isabel on the front cover and gold edging on the pages. In addition to the fictionalized journal entries, the book includes: an epilogue, historical notes, a family tree, reproductions of historical artwork, a note about the author, something about the Spanish language, and a glossary of characters. The inclusion of a "further reading" list with these appendices would have enhanced the work's value, however.
Not only is this an interesting look at a fascinating time in history, but it is an exciting, captivating read, independent of the subject matter.
Ruth Scales McMahon is a Storyteller and Library Consultant who first fell in love with biographies of famous queens in elementary school when she read one about Queen Elizabeth II.
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