Cover image for The Merlin of St. Gilles' well
The Merlin of St. Gilles' well
Chamberlin, Ann.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : TOR, 1999.
Physical Description:
320 pages ; 22 cm.
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Reading Level:
890 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC High School 8.5 23 Quiz: 20780 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


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The saga of Joans rise from obscurity to lead the armies of France, followed by her tragic martyrdom, has inspired many books, plays, and films. Less well-known is the fact that Joans astounding destiny was predicted by ancient prophecies attributed to none other than Merlin himself, or that Joan would effect christianity throughout Europe.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Well-regarded historical novelist Chamberlin turns her pen to what is labeled fantasy by the publisher but is perhaps better described as "magical historical realism." For it is only fantasy if you don't believe in magic, and magic forms the bedrock upon which Chamberlin has built a marvelous recasting of the story of Joan of Arc in terms of ancient pagan beliefs in the power of kings to invigorate their lands. Brittany, with its residual Celtic heritage, figures prominently in the novel's settings, and philosophical questioning of dualistic thought is a strong theme brilliantly expressed in the book. Some sections, such as that detailing the decoding of the pagan subtext of superficially historical and Christian tapestries, could almost stand alone as academic works. But fear not, such scholarliness is not what Chamberlin depends on to keep us reading. Instead, those old reliables, smart pacing, complex and compelling characters, and, above all, a superbly realized magical world, in which extraordinary powers are wielded by Druidical hermits and inner vision is as true as outer vision, make the book compelling. A splendid beginning to what should become a classic series. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

A rich weaving of fantastic elements with accurate historical detail and imaginative reinterpretation, this series launch covers the years 1404-1415. Yann, a Breton merchant's three-year-old son prone to fits and visions, is accidentally wounded with an arrow lofted by Sire Guy de Rais near the shrine of St. Gilles. The Hermit of St. Gilles, a clandestine practitioner of the pagan Old Religion, saves the child's life and recognizes his prophetic/clairvoyant gift. Yann's mother, Gulliamette, becomes the confidante of Madame Marie de Rais and wet nurse to Marie's son Gilles, while Yann is raised with the young lord. Guided by the Hermit and Michel, another Master of the magical almost-forgotten ways, Yann has a vision that France's salvation lies in the form of La Pucelle, an as-yet-unborn maid from Lorraine, whom he must someday assist. As Yann is trained to use his Sight, Gilles, destined to be a warrior, is also introduced to the old beliefs. Both must play a role in trying to bring balance to their land and people, a balance that requires sacrifice. The underlying themeÄthat good and evil are a jumble and for every dazzle there must be a shadowÄshould prove particularly intriguing as future volumes elaborate more of this fictional version of the historical lives of Joan of Arc and the much-maligned Gilles de Rais, as well as of the imaginary but compelling Yann. Though this volume bogs down in a predictable pagan ritual, then comes rapidly to a stopping point, it offers an expertly tailored historic setting and plausible extrapolation to support sound storytelling. Obviously meant to represent an alternative to standard history and religion, to challenge perceptions of gender roles and to comment by analogy upon modern equivalents of witch-hunting, demon seeking, hypocrisy and ignorant condemnation, this first fantasy from the author of several well-received historicals, including Sofia, the Sultan's Daughter, edifies as it entertains. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved