Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Hardcover, 448pp
(Received for an honest review from TLC Tours)
From the author of The Creation of Eve, a novel of royal intrigue and marital betrayal set during the Golden Age of Spain.
One of the most famous figures in Spanish history is Juana of Castile, who would come to be know as Juana the Mad. A fiercely intelligent princess who inherited Queen Isabel's throne, she married a man so beautiful he was called Philippe the Handsome. But what began as a seeming fairy tale ended quite differently. After Queen Juana's husband died, she was branded insane and locked away in a palace, unseen by her people, for the next forty-six years. What happened between her fairy-tale beginning and the locked tower room? Sweeping, page-turning, and wholly entertaining, Reign of Madness is historical fiction at its richly satisfying best.
Historical fiction writer Lynn Cullen attempts to shed some light on a royal mystery. Was Queen Juana of Spain really mad? In her latest book, Reign of Madness, Cullen uses the framework of history to create a compelling story of one young woman's courage in the face of betrayal and insidious political intrigue. Cullen's descriptive prowess and her ability to craft complex and multi-layered characters, sets this one apart from the pack.
Juana of Castile, the daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand of Spain never expected to wear the crown, she was far from succession, but history intervened and Juana paid a heavy price. As a young princess she was expected to marry a man hand picked to solidify an alliance with the Hapsburg's. Her new husband Philippe the Handsome made Jauna think that perhaps she could find love with him as well as a political future, but that was not to be. Their relationship quickly began to deteriorate when it became clear that Queen Isabel's throne would fall to Juana. Philippe began to consolidate her power and turn even her own family against her, convincing them and the Spanish people that Juana was insane and quite mad. After Philippe's death Queen Juana is held prisoner in her own home, betrayed by those closest to her and held captive for nearly half a century. But the question still remains... What she truly mad or just a casualty of a political climate set against her?
Lynn Cullen has a knack for instructing the reader as well as entertaining them. In her latest book, Reign of Madness, Cullen brings to the forefront one of histories mysteries, the true state of Queen Juana of Spain's mind. Was she really completely mad and unable to lead her people or was she really an intelligent and caring young woman who ended up on the wrong side of a political battle? Cullen goes a long way toward proving that Juana was indeed quite sane and able to make decisions, raise children and lead a productive life. What happened to her in those intervening years when she was kept from the public eye and unable to even interact with her family? Cullen gives readers a historically accurate setting, with complex characters whose motivations were are anything but benign. Readers will love her sharp wit and clear and concise details.
Juana was only a young girl when she marries Philippe but she still harbors hope that their relationship will be like her mother and fathers, full of love and understanding. And though it started out well, Philippe's interest began to wain and it is obvious that he has other women and well as Juana. Juana appears to be an intelligent young girl but she is under and extreme amount of pressure from everyone around her and it is possible that she could have cracked under that extreme possessiveness. Cullen portrays Juana at the very center of a political struggle between her husband and her father. It is interesting that Cullen leans toward the fact that Juana was not insane but merely kept from her people because the men in her life were greedy for power. I liked the fact that Cullen showed Juana as a proud woman, who would not surrender to her situation even though she knew it would not do any good.
It's one of those stories that if you are a proponent of history you know the outcome, but it doesn't take away from the story itself. Cullen makes this one interesting enough that readers want to continue reading the pages and hoping for something miraculous to happen to change the outcome. That takes an amazing amount of talent to pull off and Cullen does it with style. Her setting is impeccably researched and she is able to describe the political climate and culture of the time as well as she does the hearts of her characters. She transports readers back to a time when Christopher Columbus has just returned from his famous voyage and Spain is poised to become a huge political player in the world. She conveys to the reader the sense of powerlessness Juana felt in the face of men who were in a position to make or break her very existence. I thought Cullen made Juana's story compelling and full of surprises. Readers will love the way Cullen weaves history and fiction and gives them a great tale of love and betrayal.
I recommend this one to all of my historical fiction fans. It's full of action and political intrigue. It answers questions historians have asked for ages about Juana's real state of mind. Cullen uses fiction to bring to life a little known character and give her a story that people can understand and relate to. This is Cullen's second historical novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the near future. It is a rather lengthy read, though definitely worth the time. If you are interested in Spanish history this one will be a good fit for you and if you're not, you might be after you read this one!
Reign of Madness will be available from your favorite bookseller August 5th.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag.
Lynn Cullen is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal- Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt's Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. An avid traveler and historian, Cullen lives in Atlanta.
The publisher has been kind enough to offer one copy of Reign of Madness to one lucky winner from Debbie's book bag!
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