Joan eventually nurses Pope Sergius back to health, but news comes that Saracens (Arabs) are coming to attack Rome.
The Saracens succeed in sacking ST.Peter’s Basilica, which angered and frightened the citizens of Rome.
Despairing the horrid turn of events Pope Sergius falls ill and dies; in his place Pope Leo is elected, which angers Anastasius because he wanted the to become Pope after Sergius.
Being advised by Joan (who was elected Nomenclature, one of the high positions of the Papal court) Pope Leo begins construction on an extension of the Roman walls to guard against future Saracen attacks.
In an attempt to discredit Leo as Pope and have the people remove him from the Papal seat, Anastasius has someone set fire to the scaffolding of the newly constructed wall, but his actions have the opposite effect on the people, since despite the fire the wall stood strong they saw it as a sign from God.
The Pope learns that it was Anastasius who started the fire and excommunicates him; Anastasius temporarily exiles himself to Frankland.
In a plot to have his son elected Pope, Anastasius’s father poison’s Pope Leo and eventually he dies.
With the only other clear candidate for the papacy being Anastasius (who at the time was headed back to Rome in anticipation of his being elected), the people called for Joan to be Pope, know to be a healer and pious soul closely tied to the former beloved Pope Leo (the people didn’t want Anastasius because he was to closely related to the Frankish King Lothar).
Though loved by many, during the entirety of her papal rule Anastasius and his supporters tried to discredit and remove her from the papal seat.
In a series of interesting events Joan becomes pregnant and after the Easter Mass celebration she had planned to abandon her Papacy and secretly run away with Gerold.
In a last ditch effort by Anastasius to take the Papal throne by force, during the Easter celebration, Anastasius’s men Surround and kill Gerold and as Joan attempts to have his body taken into the Church for proper mourning she goes into premature labor, miscarries, and dies before the people of Rome.
Anastasius, despite his efforts, never achieved the throne……..
Of course once it is realized she was a woman they curse and condemn her and try to eradicate all mentions of her in history.
The events of the story seemed to be going great, I’m expecting a good ending and then it took a violent, sad and unexpected turn that angered/saddened me (I’m not sure which emotion I was feeling most strongly).
I’m not sure any of this relates to anything in my actual life. I mean, Joan’s struggle was so much harder and fantastical than anything I could ever hope to happen in my life, plus the times are drastically different, so it is hard to compare. I think Gerold is most like me, because he is identified as the “protector.” No matter what ever happened with Joan he was always there to protect her (identity and all) from harm. I’m very much like that with my family, I find myself defending them against others even when they are in the wrong (I can’t help it…). Just like Gerold has unconditional love for Joan, I have unconditional love for my family.
I think the entirety of the plot was over when Joan died. I mean, the plot could have continued even if Gerold has died or Anastasius achieved the throne, but with protagonist being gone there was nothing left to tell.
The message I received from this novel, was that, there really is not any limit to what some one can do if they give their lives everything that they have, but when it comes down to it how ever fate wants your life to go or end you can’t stop it no matter your ambitions or hard work; Anastasius never became Pope, Gerold never got to marry Joan, Joan became Pope but never reached her full capacity for the goodness she could do for the people.
I would definitely recommend this book to others, because of the action and historical validity (viking attacks of Dorstadt, war at Fontenroy, Sacking by the Saracens, etc.), the wittiness of it (Joan’s ability to out argue Odo, Anastasius, and others who opposed her during her Papacy) and the emotion of the novel(Joan’s love affair with Gerold, the death of her brothers, and her own sudden death).
A the Monastery Joan is promoted to the position of priest after helping this woman, named Madalgis, and her young children.
Joan’s aging father comes to visit her at the Monastery (he believes her to be John as does every one else).
During the visit Joan learns of her mothers death; her father realizes that she isn’t John and in a fit of anger he suffers a heart attack and curses her with his final breath (of course the other monks don’t see this exchange).
(the story cuts to Gerold) Gerold is serving in Emperor Lothar’s army (Lothar is the son of Emperor Louis, the emperor mentioned before who was tricked by Anastasius. At this point Louis is dead and the older brother ,Lothar assumed the throne).
Lothar is going to war with his two younger brothers Charles and Ludwig.
Gerold is fighting in the battle of Fontenoy on Lothar’s behalf but Lothar loses and Gerold barely escapes with his life.
(story cuts back to Joan) The Monastery is mostly unaffected by the political turmoil and continues to prosper until a plight destroys all of the crops and the surrounding area and a plague descends upon the people, which starts killing off the brothers/ monks of the Monastery.
Brother Benjamin falls ill to the plague and dies, which deeply saddens Joan.
Joan herself becomes sick and fearing being discovered a woman she flees in her sickness and ends up in the town fifty miles from the Monastery at Fulda.
She discovers that the man that saved her is Arn (Madalgis’s son, whom Joan taught to read and write).
Arn promises to keep her identity as a woman secret and wants her to stay with him and his wife, Bona, and his daughter, Arnalda.
Joan stays for a short time teaching his daughter Arnalda but eventually leaves to make a pilgrimage to Rome.
(cuts to Anastasius) He has now risen to the position of primicerius and is aspiring to become Pope himself.
Unfortunately at the time of Pope Gregory’s death he is to young and in to low a position to rise to the papal seat ,so he arranges (of course using unscrupulous means) for a man named Sergius to become Pope.
The plan is for the Sergius to appoint Anastasius Bishop of Castellum, which is a high enough position from which to become pope, and once Sergius leaves the papal seat Anastasius should be old enough to become pope himself (as a side note, which will become important later Anastasius is aligned with Lothar whose help he has been using in his upward climb towards the Papacy).
(cuts back to Joan) After Joan had been in Rome for about a year, her reputation about her skills in medicine, reaches Anastasius who in turn relays this information to Benedict who is the brother of the current Pope Sergius (Sergius is ill and possibly dying, which would be bad for both Benedict who is using Sergius as a puppet to have power for himself and Anastasius who doesn’t want Sergius to die until he is old enough for the papacy himself).
Joan of course is able to cure Sergius (who was only suffering from gout) and the two become friends.
Joan empowers Sergius to take bake his papal powers from his greedy younger brother, which he does.
The angers Benedict so he sets Joan up to be arrested and thrown into the dungeon.
During a festival a man comes to the Pope claiming that Emperor Lothar is coming to beat Rome into submission after they disrespected his authority by selecting a new pope (Sergius himself) without his blessing.
Upon hearing this the Pope faints and people panic; When the Pope comes to, he calls for his brother’s help but learns that his brother has run off with the money from the papal treasury.
In an attempt to save the Pope, Arighis (Archbishop) fetches Joan from the dungeon.
Joan cures the Pope (another case of gout and stress….) and comes up with a plan to thwart the Emperor.
(another side note) Gerold at this point is still working for Lothar but realizes what a terrible jerk he is and is considering resigning from his military service up under him.
Gerold also catches Benedict trying to smuggle to gold away and decides to take him back to Rome where Gerold was to meet up with the Emperor.
After a great banquet banquet celebrating the temporary peace between the Pope and the Emperor Gerold brings before the Pope his brother Benedict.
The Pope in a fit of rage sentences Benedict to have his hands chopped of (the customary punishment for a thief). After his outburst he suffers a small seizure.
Joan must tend to him once again afterwards to other physicians of the Papal palace (who are jealous of Joan’s knowledge) want to question her about the Pope’s reoccurring condition but Arighis, as an act of kindness, allows her to escape through a secret tunnel so that she can get some much needed rest.
The tunnel lead to the private chapel where she walks in on a conversation between Lothar and Anastasius; she hides in the corner. From the conversation she learns that Lothar and Anastasius are conspiring to have Anastasius ascend to the Papal position.
Afterwards Gerold enters to tell Lothar of his resignation; upon recognizing him Joan gasps out loud alerting every one to her presence.
By lying she escapes to much scrutiny, but Gerold recognizes her and tells her to wait for him outside.
Outside they reunite and tell what has happened to them over the years.
(side note) Benedict dies from his wounds after having his hands cut off, the Pope is struck by grief, but Joan consoles him and empowers him to stay strong.
Gerold wants Joan to marry him and run away with him, but she refuses and wishes to stay and help the Pope (apparently they’re friends now…). In anger Gerold leaves.
I am so excited by the turn of events! Gerold’s reemergence, the bigger picture being revealed with Lothar and Anastasius conspiring and Joan being a part of it!!!!! I can’t wait to read how it all ends!
Joan has white gold hair, gray green eyes, and is described as rather handsome and taller than the average woman. She is very headstrong and intelligence and often times inflames other characters with her straight forwardness. She of course disguises herself as a man. She believes, despite being a woman, she is very brilliant and can make her owe way in the world with out a mans help. She is very perceptive of the other characters in the book, she often times knows when she has overstepped her boundaries with some characters or when they do not like her. She’s important to the novel because she is the main character; the whole story begins and ends with her. I love her character, because she’ so witty and seems to find her way out of every predicament that seems to challenge her through sheer force of will.
As Joan grows older and continues to go to the schola she learns, after being punished by Odo for insolence, that some ideas are dangerous.
Joan begins to fall in love with Gerold and He begins to fall in love with her.
Richild, Gerold’s wife, learns of the feelings that Joan and Gerold have for each other and arranges for Joan to be married to some village boy (at this time Gerold has gone away to attend to some civil duties and knows nothing about the arrangements); these arrangements for Joan subsequently spelled the end of her arrangements to study at the schola.
Before the wedding ceremonies could begin, the village is invaded by Norsemen, who kill everyone in the village (including Joan’s brother John), except for Gisla (Gerold’s oldest daughter), who is raped and taken by the Norsemen and Joan who escaped by hiding.
Joan despairing and alone debates whether or not to wait for Gerold’s return or to quickly leave from the danger of the ruined village. Being ever the opportunist she decides to disguise herself as her brother and goes to join the the monastery at Fulda (which is where her brother was to go since both Joan and her brother’s contract to stay at the schola was revoked due to Joan’s marriage).
(story cuts back to Anastasius) He is currently 19 and holds the high position of vestiarius bin the papal court.
Apparently there is a war that is going on between the current emperor of the holy roman empire and his sons; Anastasius has made arrangements and such for the emperors men to desert him so that his son will be crowned emperor; all of this done in secret while he pretends to support Pope Gregory’s attempt to negotiate peace between the Emperor and his son.
(cuts back to Joan) Joan is readily accepted into the Monastery as a man and enjoys her life there studying medicine and reading and deciphering a variety of text.
The violent turn of this section floored me, because they were so unexpected, but at the same time I was exhilarated by the fact that I realized that Joan’s ambitions weren’t going to be destroyed. My hopes are really high for Joan! :)
The style of the novel is really easy to read but still maintains sophistication. It is highly descriptive and because it offers the views and thoughts of a wide range of characters it keeps your attention. The fact that it is so simple but at the same time advanced enough to keep me entertained makes this one of the best novels I’ve ever read compared to the ones I’ve read in school and independently.
The continuing theme of the novel seems to be so far for one to never give up or submit to the status quo if you know you can achieve better. An example from the novel would be in this quote, “The very same qualities of mind that as a woman had earned her derision and contempt were here universally praised,” or from this one ,” You have a rare intelligence; it is God-given, and you must not deny it.”
The only new characters of importance that have survived this far are Gerold and Brother Benjamin. Joan cared very much for Gerold and even after she left Dorstadt after the Norsemen attack she continually thpught about him during her stay at the monestary; he represents Joan’s memory of the happy past. Brother Benjamin is very kind to her at the monastery and is the one that feeds her appetite for knowledge by teaching her all he knows about medicine. Joan thinks of him as a fatherly figure.
Hortrud, a midwife, travels to the home of a canon to help deliver his daughter, Joan or Johannah.
The Canon is disappointed that the newborn baby is a girl; he had currently, at the time of the new baby’s birth, two other sons, John and Matthew.
Gudrun, Joan’s mother, favored her over her brothers, because she shared her Saxon physical characteristics.
When Joan is older she persuades her older brother Matthew to teach her to read and write even though it is forbidden.
Matthew becomes ill and dies. In an attempt to please and console her father Joan shows her father she can read and write but her father becomes angry and blames her “sin” as the reason why God let Matthew die.
A Greek Scholar, named Aesculapius, comes to the Canon’s home and is so intrigued by Joan’s intelligence that he persuades the Canon to allow him to privately tutor Joan and her brother once a week.
(here the book cuts to a scene in Rome) A boy named Anastasius is accompanying his father, Arsenius, to visit the boy’s uncle Theodorus, who is an influential man in the Papal court.
As Theodorus comes out to meet them, he is killed by the Papal militia, because Theodorus displeased the pope in some earlier encounter not brought up clearly in the book.
(cuts back to Joan and her family) The Canon decided to interrupt Joan and John’s lessons of the week to show them a witch trial in which the former midwife Hortrud is quite innocent but ends up dying in the “trial” procession.
Eventually she learns that Aesculapius must leave, but promises her that he will arrange for her to continue her studies and gives to her a copy of the Iliad as a parting gift.
Joan knew that her father would not approve of her owning a “godless book” so she studied it in secret but eventually he finds out that she has it and wants her to scrape out the lettering of the entire book.
Joan refuses and is beaten horribly by the Canon
After Joan recovers from her injuries an emissary from the Bishop of Dorstadt (these are the arrangements by Aesculapius), but Joan’s father wants her brother to go instead so he lies and says it is her brother, John, that the Bishop wants and Joan’s mother goes along with the lie because she doesn’t want her daughter to leave.
Joan runs away from home and meets up with her brother after the emissary that was to take him to the bishop is killed. Together they go before the the Bishop.
Though it was Joan the Bishop wanted, he agrees to allow both of them into the Schola he created, after Joan passes a test given by the Schola Headmaster, Odo.
Since Joan is a girl she couldn’t be allowed to board with the other boys of the Schola; arrangements are made for her To stay with a Sir Gerold and his family.
Joan is hated by Odo at the Schola and is made to do extra work and the boys (including her brother John) are cruel to her.
Personal reaction: I love the Oldworld setting of the book and how straight forward the telling of the story is. I also enjoy the strength of the protagonist Joan as she goes through the trials in her life despite how young she is. Something I find particulalry interesting is how the story is able to switch from telling the main story and then cutting to other events that might be of importance later without loosing the reader.
I chose this novel because it was recommended to me by my father, who thought I might like it.
The story is told in third person omniscient by some unknown narrator, so I would have to trust the narrator or disbelieve the whole story.
The story is set in the 9th century AD.The story starts on December 28, 815 in some European village in Frankland (modern day France and Germany), but shifted to Rome at one point and spreads to other places of the late Roman empire during the dark ages. During this time period people were (by our standards) overly religious and believed that woman were inferior to men. This idea hounds Joan in the story.
The main character is Joan (and possibly Anastasius?), she faces (mostly) men who believe that because she’s a woman she should be allowed to learn and that she is an ungodly “freak of nature.”
I predict that even though Joan is facing hardships now she will over come the stigma and triumph in a man dominated world.
Why do guys feel the need to lead you on and then crush your heart? I have been through so many bad relationships and each one seems to get worse. I am so tired of guys saying that they love me or that they really want to be with me and then ending everything. Why the fuck can’t they just say exactly what they mean?!