Most school children know who Isabella is because of studying Christopher Columbus. However, C.W. Gortner presents the story of a complicated woman who comes from an impoverished kingdom to become one of the most accomplished people of her time.We first meet Isabella when she is 13 years old, shortly before her father's death. Her father, and his successor (eldest son Enrique) have impoverished the kingdom of Castile with their excesses. Isabella, her mother and younger siblings are sent into exile by Enrique to keep alliances from forming around them at court.Through the course of the book we see Isabella grow up and come into power when she marries Fernando, the crown prince of Aragon; their marriage unites the previously battling kingdoms. We also see her adherence to her faith, even to the point of having the infamous Fra Tomas de Torquemada as her confessor for a time. It is he who, as most students of history know, puts the idea for the Inquisition into Isabella's head.We don't meet a certain Genovese navigator until fairly close to the end of the book, but this is not his story.Gortner has done an exceptional amount of research; there is only one fictional character in the entire tale (a lady-in-waiting). He brings the people and period to life in a way that is absolutely irresistible. I had the pleasure of hearing Gortner speak at a recent Women's National Book Association event, and look forward to both hearing more presentations and reading more of his work.