The Merlin of the Oak Wood

Ann Chamberlin, Author
Ann Chamberlin, Author Tor Books $24.95 (333p) ISBN 978-0-312-87284-7
Reviewed on: 06/01/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Mass Market Paperbound - 320 pages - 978-0-7653-4499-1
Prebound-Other - 978-1-4176-1794-4
Ebook - 333 pages - 978-1-4668-3828-4
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Smoothly blending the real and the magical, Chamberlin puts French history to masterly use in another appealing chapter in her medieval saga centered on Joan of Arc. (Despite the title, ""the great magician Merlin in ancient days"" is mentioned only twice by name.) In the first volume, The Merlin of St. Gilles' Well (1999), Joan figured in the visions of a young peasant boy-turned-magician, Yann. In the present novel the teenaged Joan, still called Jehannette, takes center stage, already possessed by ""Voices."" Amid credible scenes that range from ordinary rural life to the ravages of war, Joan encounters a host of historical characters, including the weak Dauphin, who later becomes king, and Robert de Baudricourt, governor of Vaucouleurs, who supports Joan after she predicts the siege of Orleans. Most prominent, though, is the dashing Gilles de Rais, who appeared in the earlier book and has yet to devolve into the sexual monster and child murderer of Bluebeard legend. Yann, ""milk brother"" to Gilles, also returns to play a key part. The author is particularly good at adumbrating the paganism lurking beneath the Christian surface of the early 15th century, when people took witchcraft seriously indeed. Since Joan is only starting her eventful journey, the novel lacks a strong climax, but this is to be expected in a series that fans won't want to see end. Chamberlin deserves an honorable place in the company of such writers as Twain, Shaw and Anouilh who have dramatized the life of the Maid of Orleans. (June 11)
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