bluebeard book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

I have only heard of Bluebeard – a famous 15th Century psychopath – from a fairy tale. The man actually existed and he was much worse than Brothers Grimm made him out to be. He was a hero but after losing his muse Bluebeard went mad and developed a bloodlust that cost hundreds of children their lives.

Bluebeard, a.k.a Baron Gilles de Rais, lost his parents when he was only 11. His grandfather, a rather unscrupulous man, made himself custodian of Gilles and his younger brother and all the property that they owned, which was quite considerable. Gilles was raised as the epitome of the rich, spoiled and entitled brat. He was a bit of a bully and the only person who could tell him no was his grandfather, and that was fairly rare. Gilles excelled at arms training and it came to serve him well.

While Gilles had a pampered life, he was still affected by the loss of his parents at an early age and no one in his life stepped up to fill those shoes. He grew up an angry young man who felt the need to prove himself in battle, especially growing up on the stories about his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He grew up during the Hundred Years’ War when the English were raping and pillaging the French country-side at will.

After his grandfather’s passing, Gilles became the Baron and decided to spend some time in the French court begging the Dauphine to let him lead an assault against invaders. He got his chance when a little waif peasant girl showed up in court claiming she was sent by angels to lead French troops into battle and win against the English. Gilles became a hero fighting alongside Joan de Arc. However, after Joan’s trial and sentence, Gilles spirals into madness. He spends several years brutally raping, torturing, murdering and mutilating children–mostly young boys, but girls as well.

Bluebeard: Brave Warrior, Brutal Psychopath is meant to be a historical look at Gilles de Rais and an attempt was made to make it into a story. It certainly read much better than a history book but it was also a long way from a well-told story. The narrative jumped around a lot and did not feel well thought out. There were some instances where it seemed that the author was finally on a roll with the story only to have it jump to another scene with no immediate connection. It wasn’t until nearly the end of the book – with Gilles was facing the court – that the depravity of his acts was finally disclosed.

I wish the author did a better job of putting the story together, however, I still learned a LOT about France at the time of the Hundred Years’ War and the atrocities committed on all sides. I found it all very interesting.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Finn Partners. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.