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The Merlin of the Oak Wood (Joan of Arc Tapestries, Book 2) Hardcover – June 2, 2001

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Product Details

  • Series: Joan of Arc (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (June 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312872844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312872847
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,529,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The Merlin of the Oak Wood is the sequel to The Merlin of St. Gilles' Well and book two of the Joan of Arc Tapestries, a series that seeks to be to the Maid of Orleans what Mary Stewart's classic Merlin novels are to King Arthur. Ann Chamberlin's entertaining Joan of Arc novels may be read with equal validity as high fantasy, historical fantasy, or secret history. Pagan readers will enjoy the series, but devout Christians may be disturbed by the way it explicitly connects the saint to Celtic paganism.

Opening in the Year of Grace 1425, The Merlin of the Oak Wood follows Jehannette d'Arc through childhood and young womanhood to her acceptance of the mysterious voices that summon her to fight for beleaguered France. The novel also continues the stories of the two main characters of the previous book: Jean Le Drapier, now the powerful Merlin of St. Gilles' Well, and Gilles de Rais, the valiant and troubled French nobleman who fights the English invaders, and who will one day become the murderous Bluebeard. The second book in a series, The Merlin of the Oak Wood is obviously a bridging work, with the inevitable lack of a definitive conclusion, but it ably continues the story of Jeanne d'Arc and her allies-to-be.

A two-time winner of Affaire de Coeur's Best Foreign Historical Award, Ann Chamberlin has also written Sofia, The Sultan's Daughter (winner of the 1998 Critic's Choice Award for Overall Historical), The Reign of the Favored Women, Tamar, and Leaving Eden. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In 1425 France, soldiers' blood continues to flows as decades of war divides the country. England and Burgundy occupy land that rightfully belongs to the French. Soldier-witch Gilles de Raes and his milk brother witch Yann know that the nation will continue to be a river of blood before Merlin's prophecy will save the earth in the guise of a maid from the Bois-Chenau.

In Domenry, Jehannette D'Arc wears the red kirtlee that signifies she is not available for courting. She hears voices in her head that she believes is God telling her what he wants her to do. Unlike most females, Jehannette can ride a horse and fight as good as any male. To many she is the incarnation of Merlin's prophecy and they are ready to follow her into hell once she gives the signal.

Ann Chamberlin writes a powerful mix of mysticism and fact to create the exhaling THE MERLIN OF THE OAK WOODS, setting the stage for Joan of Arc's endeavor to drive invaders from French soil. The juxtaposition of battle scenes with a child growing into a warrior-woman is believable and quite colorful. The only drawback to this powerful historical novel is that readers will need to wait one year for book two.

Harriet Klausner
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sandman on August 24, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Historical rights are wrong, left is right, the Church is immoral, and evil is virtuous as long as the goal is OK.

This story, and I must assume the author herself, gives the feeling of a poetic but unfortunately lost soul seeking desperately to overturn anything accepted as "true" or "good" in order to induce a reaction while telling her imagined enlightened version of a period of historical transformation.

The story does successfully recreate the feeling of chaos and mystery that must have surrounded rural life in the middle ages during time of conflict and political upheaval, and throws some intriguing glimpses into the superstitions of the period.

The author has an effective eye for injecting realistic as well as romantic detail and description into each scene, and drops historical colloquialisms as though she uses medieval terms in everyday conversation. Very well.

This story isn't, however, about Merlin, nor is the majority of this entry in the series even about Joan of Arc (still 'Jehannette' here), but rather about the rewriting of history toward a pathetic anti-Christian worldview provided through the eyes of the violent and homosexual anti-hero Gilles. She gives him some severely sympathetic treatment, attempting to draw the reader into identifying with this pagan worldview as well. It is his character that provides the predictable sniping at how weak and immoral all of the self-righteous stick-figure characters - who are held up as representatives of historical Christians - supposedly are.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
,,,I think this book is a brilliant piece of fiction, an intelligent fantasy about the pagan culture of medieval Europe. When you start reading it you just get lost in it, you feel like you're really there. I think it's as close as we'll ever get to experiencing pagan life in the Middle Ages. I've read other Ann Chamberlin books and I think she's really a fine writer; I know that The Merlin of St. Gilles' Well was named "One of the Ten Best Fantasy and SF Novels of the Year" by Booklist. If you like really good historical novels and/or fantasy novels, fine prose, and a compelling story, you'll love this. Happy reading!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mick McAllister on June 21, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Plodding through the second volume of the JoA Tapestries, I kept drifting back to one of my vivid memories of seventeen years in Utah. I was in a supermarket line, and the ten-year-old boy in front of me said to the cashier, from out of nowhere, "Know what my favorite group is?" She shook her head and he said, "Marilyn Manson." His mother paid no attention. I'll skip the analysis, since it would just lead to accusations of prejudice. Suffice it to say that Ann Chamberlin reminds me of that boy and the world that made him.

Armchair Satanism is as boring as couch-potato patriots and weekend Christians, and the anti-Christ is just the print negative of Jesus. Wicca is not the opposite of Christianity, it's an alternative to patriarchal, exploitive entitlement. If you want to read a real Wiccan novel, try Elizabeth Cunningham's wonderful Maeve Chronicles. What Chamberlin has to offer is just the claim that sour is sweet, and sweet, sour. We'd be better off, she claims, with a religion that puts dogs and cats in cages and burns them. Human sacrifice isn't so bad, once you get used to it. I don't think so.

Reading this alternative version of Joan of Arc, I felt cheated. We're two books in, and she's finally arrived on the scene, in the last sentence of the second book. But see, The Gilles de Rais Tapestries just doesn't have the right ring to it. I felt lied to. Chamberlin wouldn't burn puppies, for all her intellectual posturing. She hasn't quite got the nerve to endorse de Rais' sadistic pedophilia (his hobby was raping children while they died), but she flirts with it, ever so gaily. There is a fundamental dishonesty, just like the anti-piety of that little boy in the supermarket, in her fiction.

And I realized, finally, that I was wasting my time.
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