Chamberlin’s provocative, 15th-century fantasy series continues, with just enough sex, sorcery, and brutally realistic swordplay for the young Jehannette d’ Arc to emerge as the powerful culmination of all three. Gilles de Rais, the historical Bluebeard, has come into his own as a terrific fighter, though he is continually frustrated by the treacherous betrayals and shifting alliances that turn his hard-won victories for France into embarrassing routs. After ransoming his corrupt cousin from a Loire Valley fortress, he capriciously saves the life of a young boy. That boy dies, but, in liberating his spirit, the crippled sorcerer priest Père Yann, who was raised with de Rais in Chamberlin’s The Merlin of St. Gille’s Well (1999), learns the identity of the young girl La Pucelle, the fabled figure who will unite France and get rid of the English usurpers (known throughout as the “goddams”). Of course, young Jehannette d’ Arc is confused to hear the boy’s spirit whisper to her of destiny. One of three daughters born to the second wife of a peasant, she hates weaving, and would rather ride bareback and spin staff as a weapon, all to the consternation of her mother. Fortunately, the kindly Père Michel, a member of Père Yann’s magic sect of Good Neighbors, assures Jehannette that she will one day discover herself to be the right person in the right place at the right time. At the siege of a Bretagne castle, teams up with Hamish Power, a Scottish mage, just in time to give the skeptical de Rais a talisman that miraculously saves him when a move to storm the battlements seems to go awry. In jumping from Yann to de Rais to young Jehannette, Chamberlin shows how the arts of enchantment and the arts of war can be combined to create an irresistible, bisexual energy in her young heroine. At the close, Jehannette, having discovered that she is France’s savior, gathers an army around her to raise the siege of Orleans.
Superior blend of gutsy action and dreamy magic in a well-wrought, darkly sinister medieval setting.