A straightforward life of Columbus's queen, illustrated with archival materials. At 18, Isabella allied herself with Ferdinand despite the wishes of her elder brother, King Henry, whom she succeeded five years later. Unlike Henry, she was competent and industrious, an innovative reformer credited here with bringing the rule of law to her newly unified country and making it an important power. Exhibiting an unusually independent spirit for a woman of her era, she was preoccupied with defending the new monarchy against a Portuguese challenge and by her war with the Moors. Unfortunately, she was also a devout, obedient Catholic who left her confessor (the infamous Torquemada) to manage the Inquisition; nonjudgmentally but with enough detail to provide some balance, Butch presents the persecution of the Jews as part of the historical context rather than as a reflection on Isabella's character or her substantial achievements. Easily read but containing a commendable quantity of solid information, a useful introduction to one of history's most powerful women. Further reading (there's little available at this level, and none of it recent); index.