Castile for Isabella by Jean Plaidy
Date read: 1st May 2018 – 3rd May 2018
Page count: 288
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle Edition
Lo and behold, another historical fiction review! I’ve read a lot of historical fiction recently (I’m currently reading Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses series) and I decided I wanted to try and review more non-contemporary/non-YA books on here!
Castile for Isabella is a much older novel, written in 1960, so it is in a slightly different style to the other historical fiction books I’ve reviewed on here before. Also, it moves away from British history, which is usually what I reach for. I’m hoping to broaden it up even further, so please let me know of any other historical fiction set outside of the UK that I can pick up!
Castile for Isabella is about Isabella of Castile, a fifteenth Century Spanish princess, and mother to Catherine of Aragon. Most of the plot follows the deviance of two rival factions within the Castilian court, both vying for different heirs – on one hand, Isabella’s young brother Alfonse, and her half-brother and erstwhile King Henry – to inherit the throne.
The story starts at the death of Isabella’s father, and the subsequent choice of her mother to move her and her brother to a convent. Her mother is portrayed as a madwoman, which seems pretty unsurprising given the perchance for both inbreeding and inherited madness in that bloodline, and a fellow character, Joanna, Henry’s second wife, is also regularly portrayed as not being completely sane.
Isabella, however, is completely normal, apart from her blatant fixation on her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon, which she uses as an anchor to guide her through the days she spends waiting for the civil war to pass in Castile. This does make her a little annoying to read at times, but not unbearable. Henry, on the other hand, her half-brother, is completely insufferable, the ideal ‘soft King’ that lets others rule him, in this case in return for a harem of women.
So, not altogether likeable characters. But it was a very well written, not too dated story. It is the first in a trilogy of three novels, ending just after Isabella’s marriage to Ferdinand and the ending of the Castilian Civil War, so if you aren’t looking for a significant time commitment, then I would warn you against this.
Also, sometimes the time jumps were badly signposted, making me feel a bit disorientated at points – there’s a point where Isabella jumps from eleven to fifteen in the space of a chapter, which really threw me off.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, which is a solid yes from me. I went and downloaded the next two books in this series as well, so hopefully I’ll get around to those soon!