Thank you to Mr Gortner for sending me a review copy of The Last Queen. I very much appreciate it. When I was a little girl, my mom would tell me stories of Juana la Loca. Being of half Spanish descent myself, I was enchanted with stories of the Spanish Queens and Kings. My mom was also a lover of history and would always tell me a story or two about the Spanish monarchy. I loved it when she told me about Juana la Loca and although I never really studied about her officially, she was always a curiosity to me.
The Last Queen features the story of Juana (or, more commonly known as Juana La Loca, or in English, Joanna the mad) who becomes the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit the throne. It first starts off from Juana’s betrothal to Philip of the Habsburg Empire (Philip the Handsome) where their marriage starts off wonderfully. However as Philip starts to show his true colors things start to sour and when Juana suddenly becomes heir to the throne of Spain Juana’s life turns into a political, mental, and emotional struggle.
I had to say I loved this book. A lot. I liked how Juana stood out from the rest of her sisters and it was nice to see Catalina (afterwards becoming Catherine of Aragon) have a “cameo” appearance in the story. Juana is very headstrong, and despite what she goes through, she manages to be steadfast and it was as if nothing could break her. I admired Juana a lot in this book. I liked how the relationship between Juana and Philip started. It was lovely and reminded me a lot of the love between Catalina and Arthur in The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. It was so sad to see it so short lived. When Philip shows his colors the reader realizes he’s not such a great loving person after all. Perhaps because he did not have the right influences and not the most greatest of advisors, however it was sad to see his ambition get to his head. It was so surprising to see Juana so steady and steadfast and even stands up against Philip (although she’s beaten back down to submission). I admire her bravery and courage to stand up to a court ruled by men, it seemed as if she was by herself the majority of the time.
The story flowed flawlessly and there were no bumps or stops to inturrupt the fluidity of this book. If you want something with lots of court intrigue and plotting this is something for you. There is a lot of plotting behind every character’s back in this book and when it’s realized, there’s explosive confrontations filled with emotion and sometimes violence. I really liked the little tidbits of Spanish in this book (small phrases) it added more realism to the story and it enhanced the reader’s ability to actually feel like they were right there in Medieval Spain.
I felt a lot of sympathy towards Juana. Although she’s very strong, I knew she had her limits and she could only take so much. I realized then, it’s not really that she’s “crazy” moreso, because of the emotional, mental and sometimes physical abuse it’s no wonder she went through a mental breakdown. Juana herself is a very emotional character. She’s explosive and has a temper, she’s filled with different feelings and is a very passionate person in this book. It’s indeed a very sad story. Juana goes through one tragic event after another and she really has no one to trust. Amidst the large court with very few people on her side, Juana is a very lonely character.
Overall a wonderful book for those always curious or interested in Juana la Loca. The author’s note at the end also provides very good information as to what happens afterwards to Juana. It’s a very sad tragic tale, and paints Juana in a very different light It’s actually a refreshing look on Juana and sheds off the myth of a “madwoman” who was probably not really that crazy after all.
I give it a 10 out of 10.