I was somewhat interested in the story. At the same time, I really wasn’t. It wasn’t really the characters but rather the history.
If I didn’t have an interest in the Habsburg then I would have dropped the book. It isn’t really one that has the idea of what subtlety means. It is not one where it carefully handles the court situation and the background.
The monarchs are definitely interesting. Just because Mariana had been his niece and all the implications that came with it. She is interesting because of how her life had turned out. She went from marrying a fairly good looking cousin to her ugly, aging uncle.
And her marriage would produce Charles II of Spain. Which everyone would admit was both physically and mentally retarded. As well as heavily impotent. If anyone was to look at his ancestry, they would face palm.
And really, that was what made this interesting. I didn’t care so much for Mari. Or even what was happening. It was mostly the history which fascinated me as much as I was rather well versed in this part.
The book has Mari, where she does really everything. But what the book bothers me is how it sneaks all this little details about how it feels wrong. And I can tell that it isn’t Mari’s thoughts. It doesn’t feel like her. And all these little lessons which are more of the commentary a twenty first century person would have for those times.
Anyone can look at how wrong they were, but at that time marriages were dictated by dynastic politics. The things that had to be done because they needed Catholic Royals of the Right Rank. Which the Reformation clearly didn’t help at all.
And the degenerate children were not born because they were of uncle niece marriages. It’s because they had been born of generations of uncle niece and first cousin marriages (several I kid you not). Not to mention that this had been the norm for Spain and Portugal and it was simply something the Habsburg picked up. (Just take a look at the Aviz, Trastamara, and later the House of Bragzana and Bourbon Spain).
And mostly due to sheer bad luck. And why this is a very very hot topic in alternate history. You could just change many of them for a different wife. Or had a son of an existing distantly related wife survive(Elisabeth de Valois and Elisabeth de Bourbon). And then the Hapsburgs would have stood a chance. And even some of them had been due to exceptionally bad medical care.
Overall, I just found the entire book interesting if you like the history. But really there was no story to tell.
Rating: 2 out of 5