I decided to copy my most recent Book Babe post to this blog because I thought my readers here would be interested in what I have to say about the portrayal of Joan of Arc in this novel.
When I saw a summary of The Maid of Heaven by Aidan James and
Michelle Wright on the publisher's website, I was intrigued. It's the
third in the Judas Reflections series about an immortal Judas Iscariot.
I hadn't read any of the books by these authors about the immortal
Judas before, but I was particularly interested in this one because it
involves Joan of Arc, one of my favorite historical personages. I
received a free copy of The Maid of Heaven from the publisher, Curiosity Quills, in return for this honest review.
I ought to say that Judas is the viewpoint character. His name in the
15th century is Emmanuel Ortiz and he came to France expressly for the
purpose of fighting for Joan of Arc's cause. Joan of Arc had some
unusual allies in real life such as Gilles de Rais who became known as
Bluebeard, but certainly Judas Iscariot would stand out. This is not a
saintly Judas. He enjoys his life for the most part. This is why I
commented in my book journal that if immortality was supposed to be a
divine penance, it wasn't working. He does experience angst at times,
but it doesn't put a halt to his recreational activities. He reminded
me of the Immortal Duncan MacLeod from the Highlander television
series. Duncan MacLeod also lived with gusto, and was interested in
fighting for great causes at one point in his life.
liked the portrayal of Joan of Arc for the most part. She is courageous
and has tremendous fortitude. When she was wounded with an arrow, she
drew it out herself. I have read of this stalwart Joan in many books.
Yet there were two anomalies in this portrait of Joan.
to the trial transcript, Joan had vowed to dress as a man. In this
novel, it's a pragmatic choice. She dressed as a man in battle and when
she was imprisoned in order to avoid rape. Unfortunately, the trial
transcripts reveal that she was raped a number of times while awaiting
trial. This is mentioned in the novel. Judas is enraged when he
learns of it.
The other anomaly is that in this book
Joan was not a virgin before she was captured by the English. Saints
aren't supposed to be sexual, and most authors seem to have the attitude
that Joan couldn't engage in consensual sex because it would weaken
her. I think this is a puritanical attitude. The authors of The Maid of Heaven
evidently don't believe this is true. It humanizes Joan, but it
doesn't make her less strong. I was actually glad that the authors had
made this choice, but it is a controversial one. This Joan doesn't
think of herself as a saint, and she mocked Judas when he suggested that
she might one day be canonized.
I thought that The Maid of Heaven was an
unexpected and compelling read. I might be interested in following
future adventures of the immortal Judas--especially if he encounters any
other favorite female historical personages.