By Elizabeth Cunningham
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Available: for Pre-order on Amazon, Due out November 15th, 2011
I am a huge fan of history and an even bigger fan when people, or in this case authors, connect reasonable dots when it comes to history and religion. Especially when that author decides that Jesus was a person with emotions and a sex drive. But this story isn't about Jesus really. This book is about Mary Magdalene, more appropriately named Maeve Rhaud. Because if Mary were real and if she had red hair like most renaissance paintings depict her, wouldn't she be from the British Isles? And if she DID fuck Jesus, she would have had to get to Roman occupied Israel/ Palestine some how.
Thus we have the Maeve Chronicles. But I only read the last one. This one, Red-Robed Priestess. Having not read the other three preceding books, I still thoroughly enjoyed this story. I didn't feel left out of the loop at all. This book sheds enough back story when needed to have vibrantly painted characters that most likely grew to be that way in the other books.
Most colorful of them all is most certainly Maeve. As a woman, and a woman who has taken women's studies classes in college, I am so in love with the way Maeve is painted as a strong enduring, witty and endearingly flawed woman in the time of the first century. History and religion always paint women as docile and obedient creatures and the ones who are not as, Barbaric, punishable, witches and whores.
And even though Maeve is a disobedient which/whore and she was punished, I still love her. And there are a whole slew of other strong women throughout this whole book! Sarah; Maeve's daughter with Jesus (Jesus had a heart AND a penis!), Bele and Alyss; ex-pirates turned horse-breeding comrades, Vivianne and Brawnwen; aiding Arch Druid priestesses of Mona, Queen Boudica! Maeve's long lost rebellion raising daughter, Gwen and Lithben; Baudica's two headstrong and compassionate daughters and the list goes on and on!
Many of the characters are taken from actual history and/or proposed history. Boudica is real, she did lead a rebellion against the Roman occupation of the British Isles, if this sounds boring to you I assure you its not in this book. Also Sarah is real, in some accepted accounts, there are stories of a healer named Sarah who is the Daughter of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. And the main male character in this book is the newly appointed governor, General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, who also lived and really was the Roman General Boudica led her uprising against, which resulted in one of "the bloodiest battles in history."
The wonderful combination of actual history and probable history is more entertaining then I could have imagined. And Elizabeth created these historical and probable characters into such real people. They drive the story, (Maeve, really drives the story) but the actions of Boudica and Paulinus and, everyone else plays a part in tugging the plot each in their own direction with their own motivations, creating a conundrum of who's right and who's wrong.
Amidst the history there is a wonderful dash of magic. Shapeshifting and clairvoyance are some of the witchy abilities Maeve has from her days spent with the Druids (also real), and it makes sense that in the time of paganism and pre-chritiantiny (since he only died like two books ago) that magic would be a detail and talent of many in this story. It is an exciting feature that I think without it the story would have lacked a certain amount of excitement. Without it, it would have just been a story of a bunch of ladies ridding around and then a battle. It's the inclusion of Blood, Sex and Magic (add Sugar and we have a Chili Peppers album) that makes this story so entertaining. Luckily the blood is mostly at the end, once we've gotten our giggles out with Maeve's sexcapades. Which is another thing i really liked about this story, it isn't just one thing. It's not just a forbbiden-love story or a mother-daughter story, or a war story. It's all of it!
The story is so well intertwined. It branches out then comes back then goes out again. And with Maeve as the center piece with her sex-drive and flaws, her impulses and her instincts, the journey with these powerful women is nothing less then exciting, funny, sad, horrific and redeeming.