Julia Fox's Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragorn and Juana, Queen of Castile
is a readable, straightforward biography of the sisters Juana and Katherine, daughters of the most Catholic monarchs Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragorn. As a combined biography it's fine, if a little one-sided since there's more known information about Katherine than Juana, but it did leave me wondering why it had to be a combined biography at all, and of these two specific ladies.
Like, in comparison, Nancy Goldstone's Four Queens
talks about all four sisters as they were involved in marriages across Western Europe and caused intersecting points of interest, while her Catherine & Marguerite
combined biography was done so to highlight the conflict between mother and daughter. Fox's book could very well have chosen to talk about all five of Isabella and Ferdinand's kids, giving a wider scope to the Spanish relationships, but she picked Juana and Katherine, who weren't that close and weren't even involved in direct conflict with each other because....?
Maybe it's to highlight their differing experiences as queens, which then turned to similarity as they suffered under the men who had power of them. There is something interesting in that -- I did like the portions pointing out that despite Juana being a queen regnant, she was treated very, absurdly differently from Katherine, who was "merely" a queen consort. But although I very much enjoyed reading about these women, I couldn't quite figure out what the book was trying to do by putting their stories side by side.
That said, the stuff I did like was the book's pushing into the forefront Juana and Katherine's upbringing under their passionate and driven parents, and how it would've influenced their choices as queen (seemingly Katherine more than Juana, which made for reading the later drama with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn some freshness), plus its defense of Juana against her reputation as Juana the Mad. Good stuff, and only mildly perplexing.