Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE MERLIN OF ST. GILLES' WELL by Ann Chamberlin

THE MERLIN OF ST. GILLES' WELL

Vol. I of the Joan of Arc Tapestries

By Ann Chamberlin

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-86551-1
Publisher: Tor

First historical fantasy from Chamberlin (The Sultan’s Daughter, 1997, etc.). In early 15th-century France, Guy de Rais hunts deer in the vicinity of St. Gilles’ Well, even though it’s taboo. Instead of his quarry, Rais’s arrow strikes three-year-old peasant boy and narrator Yann—he’s subject to fits and visions—with a wound that cripples the child’s hand. The shrine’s hermit, a secret practitioner of Merlin’s magic-infused Old Religion, orders Rais to raise and educate Yann as his own. Later, Yann’s mother wet-nurses Rais’s son Gilles. Tutored by the hermit, Yann foresees the advent of France’s salvation, Joan of Arc, and, clairvoyantly, observes the murder of the Duke of OrlÇans by the Duke of Burgundy: a treacherous act that precipitates civil war. The king is powerless to intervene: an adherent of the Old Religion, Charles swore to sacrifice himself if required, but then balked and was driven mad. Eventually, when Yann and Gilles are initiated into the ancient mysteries, Gilles (“bluebeard”) tattoos his chin blue. But during the orgiastic midsummer fertility rites, straitlaced Guy de Rais and his henchmen attack the celebrants and grievously wound the hermit. Yann curses the perpetrators (all will die within months) and prophesies the extinction of the house of Rais (Gilles, though, survives, ready to assist Joan of Arc). Finally, Yann inherits the shrine from the hermit. Persuasive fantasy elements are seamlessly integrated into a richly detailed historical backdrop: a compelling series opener.