Scholars are unsure as to whether or not a female pope ever existed. The time period in which it could have happened was probably the darkest part of the Dark Ages. Records were sparsely kept, and if there ever were such a woman who deceived her way into pope-dom, the concrete evidence has been destroyed (though the author gives a nice argument as to Joan’s existence in the Author’s Note after the story). In this novel, Cross gives a fictional account of Joan’s life, from a troubled birth, childhood and education; to taking on her slain brother’s name (John) and leading a tempestuous and shrouded life as a monk and a healer; to eventually being elected pope.
It is a captivating story of over-coming adversity, passion, determination, and love. There is also just enough suspense to keep the reader fully engaged and turning the pages at a quickened pace. I recommend it to any fan of history, feminism, or quality literature.