Review of the Ann Chamberlin trilogy
The Joan of Arc Tapestries
By Kim of Austin, Texas
This trilogy is an extremely fictionalized version of the life of Saint Joan, told from the point of view of several people involved with the Old Religion. Therefore, let the reader be warned: if you are a stickler for the facts, and especially if you are a devout Christian, you will not like these books!
Chamberlin herself explains: "Margaret A. Murray's books 'The Witch Cult in Western Europe' and 'The God of the Witches' were the immediate inspirations for the Joan of Arc Tapestries. I am perfectly aware that no respectable scholar since the 1970s has taken her thesis seriously, but this didn't stop me from setting off on my quest. I write fiction, after all...." (Afterward to "The Merlin of the Oak Wood.")
This reviewer is not a Christian and has an interest in the Old Religion. However, the heavy emphasis in these books for the nine-year cycle of the Great Sacrifice (of royal blood, voluntarily) to fertilize the land (the Mother) has no part in modern Wicca that I am aware of, if it ever did in the past. Jehanne herself is made to perform one or two spells of protection, and the folk of Domremy clamor for her to be thrown, bound, into the river as part of her "witch trial," all of which I found ridiculous and strained.
The reader may, however, find it refreshing to have the budding La Pucelle referred to by her correct name for once: "Jehannette Romee," as girls were called after their mothers in that part of Lorraine, and not the common misconception of "Jeanne D'Arc."
The rich amount of detail and the fresh view of the entire history of the events leading up to the need for La Pucelle's appearance will be of great interest to any reader searching for any new form of information on their beloved Joan, and the situation she was born into.
The first book, "The Merlin of St. Gilles' Well," is told mainly from the point of view of Gilles de Rais, and attempts to explain his peripheral connection with the Old Religion, as well as discussing his homosexuality. Also featured is the growth of a young Briton man, Yann, raised in the Old Religion, who must work to bring about the ancient prophecies and work to defeat the English and Burgundian armies.
The second book, "The Merlin of the Oak Wood," again centers around Gilles de Rais in its first half. The character of Jehannette is finally introduced in the second half, with the visits of her famous Voices "explained" through the work of Yann and others of the Old Religion, and Jehannette frequently acting in ways this reviewer thinks are not consistent with other histories about her life. Again, the rich amount of information make this book an interesting read, offering details about everyday life that make the scenes come alive.
This reviewer wants to read the third book in the trilogy, when it is published, to see where Chamberlin is going with her storylines, but I cannot emphasize enough that the reader must suspend any desire for documentary factualness when approaching these highly fictionalized accounts. If you enjoy books mixing and contrasting magic with Christianity, such as Katherine Kurtz's "Deryni" series, you will find these books a valuable contribution to such literature.