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Extended Audio Sample Isabella: The Warrior Queen Audiobook, by Kirstin Downey Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kirstin Downey Narrator: Kimberly Farr Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2014 ISBN: 9780553398472
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An engrossing and revolutionary biography of Isabella of Castile, the controversial queen of Spain who sponsored Christopher Columbus’ 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, twenty-three-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 twenty-four-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’ 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 due to hundreds of years of misreporting that often attributed her accomplishments to Ferdinand, the bold and philandering husband she adored, history has all but forgotten Isabella’s influence. 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This is an engrossing new portrait of one of the most fascinating and controversial women who ever lived.”

    Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Downey’s gripping biography reveals how Isabella acquired such importance and vividly narrates the incredible drama of her life.”

    Jack Weatherford, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Brings to life the most powerful queen in history…Downey is particularly good at showing the human side of Isabella…It’s a fascinating story with great resonance for today.”

    Lynne Olson, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Kirstin Downey makes medieval history read like a modern day thriller…[in] this graceful and insightful biography.”

    Deirdre Bair, National Book Award–winning author

  • “A tale of feminist ambition that reads like a pulpy novel…[and] that’s a good thing.”


  • “[An] immensely provocative figure…[who] successfully maneuvered in an almost exclusively male world of politics.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “In a fascinating revisionist portrait, Downey sketches a monarch both adored and demonized and makes the case that Isabella laid the foundation for the first global superpower.”


  • “Downey humanizes rather than idealizes her subject…Isabella offers the reader a deeply satisfying portrait of a fascinating and complex woman.”

    Washington Independent Review of Books

  • “This rich, clearly written biography is a worthy chronicle of her impressive yet controversial life.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Perfect for both historical novices and experts in European history, this solidly researched, engaging description of Isabella’s achievements also humanizes her…and allows readers to see Isabella’s fingerprints on Renaissance culture and religion.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Narrator Kimberly Farr adds strength to this fascinating history of an extraordinary ruler. Farr provides pace and clarity as she describes Isabella’s struggles with males—a difficult brother and Ferdinand, her fiery husband—as she rose above them in stature…Farr’s performance provides an elegance and poise that are appropriate for Isabella’s biography.”


  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
  • A BookPage Top Pick in History for November 2014
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
  • Longlisted for the 2015 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
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About the Author

Kirstin Downey is the author of The Woman Behind the New Deal, which was a finalist for the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She was one of the writers of the New York Times bestselling report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and was previously a staff writer at the Washington Post, where she shared in the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. She was also a Neiman fellow at Harvard University in 2001. She is married to Neil Warner Averitt, and together they have five children.

About the Narrator

Kimberly Farr is an actress and eight-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award for narration. She has appeared on Broadway and at the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Roundabout Theatre, Playwright’s Horizons, and the American Place. She created the role of “Eve” in Arthur Miller’s first and only musical, Up from Paradise, which was directed by the author. She appeared with Vanessa Redgrave in the Broadway production of The Lady from the Sea and has acted in regional theaters across the country, including a performance in the original production of The 1940’s Radio Hour at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage.