Overall, it's a good and fair biography of Isabella, a woman usually simply labeled evil and ignored. I got a good sense of her husband Edward II's reign, and of Isabella and her lover Mortimer's successful deposition of Edward II, the early years of Edward III's reign, when the show was really run by Isabella and Mortimer, and of Edward III ousting them.
That said, the writing was a bit too much like a summary report ready to submit to accounting. On April 3, she was here. By April 8, and no later, she was there. She and Edward celebrated Easter in this other place, and met with Kent and Gloucester in the week following. I guess it's a little dry?
She also makes an extraordinary claim - that Edward II did not die when the official record says he did. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and she has one letter. OK, you could put it out there as postulation. But after that, she treats it as established fact, and makes some inferences into Isabella's psyche based on the presumption that of course Edward II was alive and living abroad in secret.
My wife loves Alison Weir, and while she liked the book too, acknowledges that it wasn't her best work.
This book is as much about Edward II as Isabella, but one tale could not be told without the other. Fascinating look into royal and court life in the early 14th century.
As interesting as it is to read a biography of a queen as important to English history as Isabella, Weir's treatment should be viewed with caution. As she always seems to do, Weir slants the history and stretches her interpretations to the breaking point in order to "prove" her theories. For example, she veers sharply between stating that Isabella was a strong and confident woman and then, a few pages later, insisting that she was dominated entirely by Mortimer, then very soon she's back to being in control.
Of particular interest in this case is her theory that Edward II was not murdered but escaped and survived to die of natural causes in exile without his identity ever being acknowledged. While it is possible this is the case (though I believe it to be unlikely), Weir provides the evidence, admits that it is not conclusive, then proceeds to act as if the matter had been settled favorably and future events are interpreted as if his survival was a given.
So by all means read and enjoy the book, but maintain a healthy skepticism over her claims in favor of Isabella being a good woman whose only flaw was greed.
I have to agree totally with the review below. The only part that my husband and I found a bit tedious(and more him, than myself tbh) was when they began listing what was in their larder/pantry and how many candles/linens/etc. they bought for such and such castle, simply because it was a list that Isabella was supposed to have written or edited or simply, possibly touched/looked at. Once those parts (which were mildly intriguing the first couple of times) were over--these were relatively few and far between--the story itself was entertaining and even though I know the story, I found myself feeling tension at parts were I knew the outcome and even hoping so and so would or would not die/live/speak lol.
The narrator did an excellent job of bringing the words alive so that it didn't feel as if the book was being read to you. I don't read/listen to many audio books, but if I was looking for another I would definitely look for this narrator to see if she was available in other works.
The Washington Post - Lisa Jardine
Isabella emerges in this biography as a politically deft and intelligent protagonist, competent to intervene effectively in affairs of state. Weir makes a strong case for the historical importance of Isabella's decision to seize the English throne for her son, as the country slipped into chaos under her increasingly feckless husband's inadequate command. Though she cannot alter the record to make Isabella good and admirable, she does succeed in giving us an utterly compelling, gripping and believable portrait of a formidable medieval queen.
A scholarly, tho sympathetic look at the life of a very controversial, very influential medieval queen of England - a woman who has been portrayed as a ruthless, amoral despot by other historians.