________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2000

cover Isabel: Jewel of Castilla. (The Royal Diaries).

Carolyn Mayer.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2000.
204 pp., cloth, $14.99.
ISBN 0-439-07805-9.

Subject Headings:
Isabella-Queen of Spain, 1451-1504-Juvenile fiction.
Kings, queens, rulers, etc.-Fiction.
Spain-History-Ferdinand and Isabella, 1479-1515-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 15.

Review by Ruth Scales McMahon.

*** /4


Segovia 19th of February 1466
Ash Wednesday

Lent has begun, forty days of prayer and fasting. This morning before dawn, my confessor, Tomsss de Torquemada assigned me an extra penance. The priest summoned me after Mass and gave me a small book. The white parchment pages are blank. I am to examine my conscience regularly. Whenever I commit a Deadly Sin, I am to write it here and meditate upon it.

ArThetavalo u 6th of May 1468

Worried as we are about the Black Death, there are other worries as well! Alfonso continues to lose support among the grandes.

Most disappointing for my younger brother is the loss of Toledo. He speaks often now of his desire to regain it, and I have promised to do what I can to help him. Even though I left Enrique's captivity, for many months I have tried to remain neutral in the rivalry between my two brothers. But the time has come for me to declare myself on Alfonso's side. He is clearly the better ruler.

Isabel: 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.

Highly Recommended.

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.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364