Book Review: The Maid And The Queen

Martina Becerril

After a long stressful week of neverending midterms, late nights, and my brain feeling like it’s going to explode with a plethora of facts embedded in it, I finally finished my patiently waiting book: The Maid and The Queen.

Warning Spoiler alert!!

The Maid and The Queen is about the shrouded historic relationship of warrior saint Joan of Arc and the mysterious queen of Sicily, Yolande of Aragon. It starts off with Yolande’s backstory and the war she was caught in during her lifetime. Then it dives into Joan of Arc’s childhood and story. Eventually the two women’s stories become  interwoven with each other. Since this book is purely history, the author includes a very long, detailed bibliography, notes, and family trees scattered throughout the book like sprinkles. Avid history nerds would adore these certain aspects. 

Now that I’ve read the novel, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the medieval times in France, Italy, and England(who the rulers were and the customs they had). 

Personally, I learned so much from this book. It was like watching an action movie with a myriad of plot twists in every corner. A plethora of wars I didn’t know about, crucial medieval people starting with Yolande The Queen Of Sicily, and politics during the middle ages – all aspects of the book that make it a fascinating read.

 In medieval history and studies hardly anyone recognizes Yolande. I’ve never heard about her before reading this book, but she played a major role throughout the Hundred Year War. Yolande was Joan’s most pivotal sponsor and  the warrior’s shadow. Without the Queen, Joan wouldn’t have gotten as far as she did. Hailing from the royal family, Yolande had great influence over the royal courts. Armed with exceptional intelligence, she persuaded the courts to support Joan and her expeditions.  To make it easy for you, Yolande is like a good combination of Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter. She is extremely intelligent and cunning like Hermione but tough and outspoken like Ginny. It truly shocked me to the core to realize that so many historians don’t give her credit. 

This book does a great job of thoroughly explaining different wars, negotiations, betrothals, etc. It was as if I could see them occurring right in front of my eyes. The sophisticated language the author uses brings the writing to life.. I felt my vocabulary enhance with all of these unordinary words I read. Such words include “catharsis”, “neophyte” and “anathema.”. I also liked how the author incorporated medieval images to give you an idea of how coronations or other medieval features appeared. This in fact kept me engaged and focused throughout the novel.

During the course of the novel, feminism in the middle ages was not explicitly stated but inferred. Yolande and some other politically involved women had a big impact on royal courts. Women during those times were not given the chance to be included in political affairs, but these women with open and strategic minds helped navigate the courts through highs and lows. I expected the aging kings and lords to look down on Yolande and the other ladies (e.g Marie of Blois) given how women were treated during those times, but they actually listened to them! I was quite surprised when I read that.

The men in the royal courts were old while Yolande was young and modern. Yolande brought more life to the court and different perspectives on issues like Joan of Arc’s battles or what to do with prisoners.  This reminded me of modern day politics where the younger politicians are the ones who bring more contemporary viewpoints and focus on issues that are currently affecting their generation. These young politicians provide contrast to the older politicians who sometimes have outdated ideas. Yolande is like the younger politicians while the royal court is like the older politicians. Of course it wasn’t an easy task for Yolande to be involved politically. She had to slowly earn the court’s respect and loyalty. She had to constantly prove herself, and she knew that any minuscule mistake she made would go against her. But in the end she exceptionally prevailed. As a girl who supports feminism, I was very pleased and motivated because if she could do that then that means that I can as well.

To histrophiles like myself who like to spend hours enriching their minds with important dates and events, and to feminists out there who like hearing about strong, tough women in our history, I can whole-heartedly recommend this novel.