Publisher: 12th July 2022 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 343 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, retellings
My Rating: 4 cups
Girl. Warrior. Heretic. Saint? A stunning secular reimagining of the epic life of Joan of Arc, in the bold tradition of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall
1412. France is mired in a losing war against England. Its people are starving. Its king is in hiding. From this chaos emerges a teenage girl who will turn the tide of battle and lead the French to victory, an unlikely hero whose name will echo across the centuries.
In Katherine J. Chen's hands, the myth and legend of Joan of Arc is transformed into a flesh-and-blood young woman: reckless, steel-willed, and brilliant. This deeply researched novel is a sweeping narrative of her life, from a childhood steeped in both joy and violence to her meteoric rise to fame at the head of the French army, where she navigates both the perils of the battlefield and the equally treacherous politics of the royal court. Many are threatened by a woman who leads, and Joan draws wrath and suspicion from all corners, even as her first taste of fame and glory leave her vulnerable to her own powerful ambition.
With unforgettably vivid characters, transporting settings, and action-packed storytelling, Joan is a thrilling epic, a triumph of historical fiction, as well as a feminist celebration of one remarkable—and remarkably real—woman who left an indelible mark on history.
"I, Joan, am coming for you."
Joan of Arc, such a well-known historical figure, one could be forgiven for wondering what spin an author could bring to warrant yet another book. Upon reading the first few pages it becomes abundantly clear why. Katherine Chen has written a very special and unique interpretation of this famous historical figure. She makes it very clear that this is a retelling, a reimagining of this incredible woman from history and she does an amazing job in giving a more contemporary and feminist perspective.
The author explores Joan from a completely different vantage point - her upbringing - with the greater part of the book being dedicated to this time. This makes for a highly engaging read as you are given an insight into Joan’s youthful feelings and the trauma she endured. This is not the religious and devout Joan of history books. This is very much a real person brought up in poverty and the impact of living with an abusive father. This is a girl who climbs trees, roams the village with her dog, loves her sister and both witnesses and experiences incredible trauma. This makes her determined to get out and do something … anything.
Joan is a book that reimagines how her upbringing may have influenced her to become the teenage leader of the French army we are all familiar with. This is not a book about religious piety, in fact, it very much places under the microscope the life and culture of France at the time. Katherine has done an incredible job of melding both fact and fiction that it all rolls into one incredibly engaging tale. If historical fiction about real people from the past is something that interests you, be sure to pick this book up. You won’t be disappointed.
“Perhaps we were both foolish to expect any other conclusion than this. You have been permitted to do so much. You were the exception to every rule. But how could you overturn a game that is as old as time itself? I think now you were always meant to fail."
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.