(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Charlotte Haldane came from a distinguished English family that included such luminaries as J. B. S. Haldane, the noted scientist (her brother), and she added to the family’s luster with a distinguished career as a journalist and writer. A pioneering feminist, she wrote a dystopian novel of the future, Man’s World (1926), published to great acclaim; serious mainstream novels; and nonfiction works of all kinds, including articles, commentary, and reviews. Melusine: Or, Devil Take Her! was her only fantasy novel. It is a rich, full-bodied work, loosely adapted from the medieval legend fashioned by Jean d’Arras for his master, Prince Jean, son of King Jean II of France.

One must not confuse the legend with the real history of the region: A Lusignan family lived in Poitiers from an early date, and a Geoffroy de Lusignan did burn the Abbey of Maillezais in 1232. The family later gained prominence by participating in the Crusades, its members becoming kings of Jerusalem and Cyprus. The tale constructed by Jean d’Arras wove elements of this real-life history together with the legend of Melusine, which was inextricably linked with the founding of the castle of Lusignan. Haldane took this raw material and used it to construct a different kind of story, one that emphasized characterization—particularly that of Melusine—and the motivations of the “devil cult” working to destroy the “evil” influences of Christianity. The result...

(The entire section is 420 words.)