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Isabel

by Carolyn Meyer
Series: The Royal Diaries #
172 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Nienna

Interesting fictionalized account with some sexual content.

Plot

Isabel's half-brother, King Enrique, has confined her to the castle Segovia under the care of his promiscuous wife, Queen Juana. From her fifteenth birthday to her wedding three years later, the princess faithfully records her struggles, relationships, the political schemes surrounding her, and her desperate desire for a decent husband.

Morality

Isabel sacrifices her own desires to give the country peace, when she deems it right. Following the instructions of the Archbishop, Isabel acts deceitfully in order to do what she believes is right. She frequently criticizes other people and accuses them of sin, but she is no less adamant about confessing her own sins.

Spiritual Content

The characters are Catholic and Isabel prays to God and the saints and does penance. Jesus' resurrection is mentioned. The characters believe in ill omens. Isobel muses a lot about the differences between the Jews and the Christians. Isabel's confessor talks about the creation of Eve in order to show Isabel that women are inferior to men.

Violence

A physician bleeds Isabel when she is sick. Several characters of sickness and other things. Isabel and others are sometimes in fear of their lives. Isabel's mother is mad from grief, but not dangerous. In the Historical Notes, the Inquisition is briefly described.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Poison is used and suspected to have caused several people's deaths. The characters drink wine.

Sexual Content

Queen Juana is an openly loose woman. Her gowns are described as very immodest, and it is strongly rumored that her daughter is not her husband's child. Juana has at least one other affair. Much of the book involves Isabel's marriage. The bridal chamber is mentioned.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Isabel remembers Princess Juana's public birth. She and her married friend discuss suckling. The symptoms of the Black Death are described. The words 'breasts' is used.

Conclusion

While I do not appreciate the sexual content in this book, I loved how Meyer weaved so much history into these journal entries. The story gives a good look into the daily life of Spanish royalty in the 1400s, including the Catholic religion, food, wares sold at fairs, diseases, and the political spectrum. I appreciated how many of Isabel's writings set the stage for her future role as the sender of Columbus and the starter of the Inquisition. Included in the book are pictures of the historical characters, a map of Spain at the time, Isabel's family tree, with a short history of each person, a list of the historical characters, a pronunciation guide, and a short biography of Isabel's reign. I recommend it as an introduction to Isabel's reign and that time period, though you may want to go through the book with a black marker before giving it to children.

Fun Score: 4
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 11-12

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