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Isabella

The Warrior Queen
Narrated by: Kimberly Farr
Length: 21 hrs and 12 mins
Categories: History, European
4.5 out of 5 stars (36 ratings)

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Summary

An engrossing and revolutionary biography of Isabella of Castile, the controversial Queen of Spain who sponsored Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World, established the Spanish Inquisition, and became one of the most influential female rulers in history.

Born at a time when Christianity was dying out and the Ottoman Empire was aggressively expanding, Isabella was inspired in her youth by tales of Joan of Arc, a devout young woman who unified her people and led them to victory against foreign invaders. In 1474, when most women were almost powerless, 23-year-old Isabella defied a hostile brother and a mercurial husband to seize control of Castile and León. Her subsequent feats were legendary. She ended a 24-generation struggle between Muslims and Christians, forcing North African invaders back over the Mediterranean Sea. She laid the foundation for a unified Spain. She sponsored Columbus's trip to the Indies and negotiated Spanish control over much of the New World with the help of Rodrigo Borgia, the infamous Pope Alexander VI. She also annihilated all who stood against her by establishing a bloody religious Inquisition that would darken Spain's reputation for centuries.

Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world, in which millions of people in two hemispheres speak Spanish and practice Catholicism. Yet history has all but forgotten Isabella's influence, due to hundreds of years of misreporting that often attributed her accomplishments to Ferdinand, the bold and philandering husband she adored. Using new scholarship, Downey's luminous biography tells the story of this brilliant, fervent, forgotten woman, the faith that propelled her through life, and the land of ancient conflicts and intrigue she brought under her command.

©2014 Kirsten Downey (P)2014 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"A strong, fascinating woman, Isabella helped to usher in the modern age, and this rich, clearly written biography is a worthy chronicle of her impressive yet controversial life." ( Kirkus Reviews)

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A great listen

Where does Isabella: The Warrior Queen rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This has to be among the best I have listened to. Well written and narrated history of one of Spain's greatest monarchs

What did you like best about this story?

Surprised how much there was to learn

Which character – as performed by Kimberly Farr – was your favourite?

All of them

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

Any additional comments?

Highly recommend

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • London
  • 16-01-16

Wide Screen History

I got this as a double bill with Roger Crowley's Conquerers which covers the same period from aross the border in Portugal. Both are great books. The joy of this lies partly in how little I knew about Isabella who is kind of Spain's equivalent to Elizabeth the first. A woman who became Queen of Castille despite being no one's first choice and then went on to rule through a mixture of hard work, intelligence, common sense of people skills. In the debit column she established the inquisition. This is a gripping tale of how Isabella took Spain from an affiliation of kingdoms still partly occupied by the Moors to a global superpower through her cannily engineered marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon, diplomatic schmoozing with the papacy (including the Borgias) and funding of Columbus' discovery of America. As a sideline she set up the inquisition with Torquemada. With that cast of characters there's almost too much to work with but the author brings it together beautifully to offer a panoramic view of one of the most dynamic periods in history. Highly recommended; think about this and "Conquerers" as a double bill.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Listened to it twice!

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. What a Queen! Amazing accomplishments, learned so much more about her. Such a shame the Spanish Inquisition blighted her reputation.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Magnificent story of a truly remarkable woman

I have rarely enjoyed a story this much especially as the author has presented a great story full of little known facts without ever becoming dry and overzealous about unnecessary details. Love the narrator who speaks clearly and with the right amount of expression in her voice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • June
  • Bushmills, United Kingdom
  • 10-07-19

Remarkable Research

Fascinating. Remarkable collation of primary Research from world wide collections of material. Chronological telling made the story easy to follow.

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Excellent feminist view with fresh investigation

This work following my personal extensive reading on this subject from other writers has left me feeling very impressed by the approach taken and the conclusions drawn - albeit there are anomalies and possible errors in details overall I believe many new insights having been raised in this work which require further investigation and verification by others to consolidate the new facts that have come to light as a result of the personal investigations carried out by the author and which would prove beneficial to the history of women and which which men ( like Fernando)would subsume for their own glory

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Beginning of Spanish Empire

Excellent book. Enjoyed the detailed research and broad context given of the times in which it all happened.

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  • Linda Erlich
  • 03-12-14

Good Biography! Learned so much about the Queen

I have read many historical novels and books about Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and how they united Spain and began the European conquest of the New World by financing Colombus. I have also read about their daughters, especially Juana and Catalina. I am a student of history and have been studying world history both formally in school, including college, and informally through my personal reading for over 50 years.

However, I never knew of Isabella's direct responsibility for the infamous Spanish Inquisition. This biography, with references, credits the queen with the major responsibility for this holocaust. Of course, she was a product of the times during which she lived. From her perspective, she was saving these people's souls from a hellish afterlife and doing the work of G-d. However even the Pope disagreed with her.

I always thought it was the church that was responsible for the torture, massacre and dispossession of non-Catholics in Spain during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. But I was wrong. It was Isabella and Ferdinand. Talk about self-rightgous fanatics!

This book was indeed very enlightening!

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-01-15

Utterly Fascinating

This is a beautifully written, meticulously researched, and wonderfully narrated book on one of the most controversial figures in world history. Queen Isabella ruled from 1474 to 1504 but those 30 years changed in the world in many-many important ways. This book is a detailed chronicle of those years and has been written and narrated in such a way that I felt that I was transported to that time and actually watched these events unfold as a silent observer. I would recommend this book highly not just to the erudite historian but to a lay person like me that wants to know what forces shaped our existence and how we came to the peoples that we are today.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Autodidact
  • 19-12-17

Fascinating history.

Always interested in the past/how little the individual means. Sometimes a great individual comes along

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • MamaHoneyBadger
  • 18-07-19

Lots of facts

I really enjoyed this book. Very informative with many first person sources! I grew up thinking that Isabella was a much less powerful queen than she really was.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Roman
  • 31-08-17

Absolutely Magnificent!

What made the experience of listening to Isabella: The Warrior Queen the most enjoyable?

In these days of political correctness, it's such a pleasure to read a biography like this one which is so well researched and accurately reported. The fact that it is was such a long book with no dull periods is a double bonus. While I was aware of Queen Isabell's phenomenal accomplishments, I appreciated the way the author skillfully portrayed all of her personal qualities and unprecedented moral courage----more than any monarch of whom I am aware. I also enjoyed her accurate characterization of Ferdinand---a snake who has been treated all too favorably in most historical accounts.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Naturally, the Queen!

What does Kimberly Farr bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I thought that Ms.Farr read as though she wrote the book herself, clearly showing the approval and reprobation of the author. I also found her to be a very engaging narrator and, while she mispronounced a few Spanish words, her overall pronunciation of proper nouns was superior to most readers. Since this is one of my pet peeves, I found the criticism of her pronunciation in other reviews a bit unfair.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It didn't make me laugh or cry, but it certainly kept me engaged and made if very difficult to put down.

Any additional comments?

Mega-kudos to this fine author. I can't wait to read her other works.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael J. Rosenthal
  • 06-01-15

A great prep for a trip to Spain

My wife and I are planning to spend a month in Spain in the near future. I think the story of Isabella is central to Spanish history. While I plan to extend my reading I think this was a good basis.

The story is dramatic and captivating and it's telling never lost my attention.I may even listen to it again!

The narration was excellent.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Steaven Chan
  • 29-12-14

Excellent

Would you listen to Isabella: The Warrior Queen again? Why?

I couldn't believe how a history book could be so gripping. Love this book.

Any additional comments?

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history or the background of Christianity during the age of discovery.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Cognorati
  • 21-01-15

The Reviews Are Right

Where does Isabella: The Warrior Queen rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This has to be the best of this kind of book that I've ever read. It had the right mix of anecdote, empirical evidence, and relevant episodes of the ruler's life. It is really a great buy for those interested in biographies of leaders and royalty.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 23-02-15

Poorly narrated

What disappointed you about Isabella: The Warrior Queen?

The narrator's inability to pronounce in Spanish

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The narration was so bad I could not finish the book.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Ann
  • 25-11-16

Narration is nasal, arrogant, annoying.

What made the experience of listening to Isabella: The Warrior Queen the most enjoyable?

The biography seems well-researched, ruined by the breezy, silly narration.

What other book might you compare Isabella: The Warrior Queen to and why?

Sister Queens. Biography.

What didn’t you like about Kimberly Farr’s performance?

A more mature reading would have better fit the subject. Her flat accent sounds gossipy, conspiratorial, forced.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Neither. It's a scholarly work.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful