“This is not your grandmother’s St. Joan. . . . If every generation gets the Joan it deserves, ours could do worse than an ass-kicking, avenging angel fighting simply for the right to fight.”—The New York Times Book Review
WINNER OF THE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS BOOK AWARD • “It is as if Chen has crept inside a statue and breathed a soul into it, re-creating Joan of Arc as a woman for our time.”—Hilary Mantel, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall
“A secular reimagining and feminist celebration of the life of Joan of Arc that transforms the legendary saint into a flawed yet undeniable young woman.”—USA Today
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, becoming 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 meticulously 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 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, while her first taste of fame and glory leaves 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
With this stunning novel, Katherine J. Chen skillfully upends near-universal beliefs about an iconic heroine. She wrenches the French martyr’s story away from religious tropes and paints a vivid and unexpectedly human portrait of a cult figure. We’re plunged into Joan’s small-town childhood, where she lived in fear of her father’s rage and in awe of her older sister’s grace, before following her onto the battlefield, where at the age of 17 she stood in defiance of English armies. Deeply skeptical of religion and capable of profound rage and violence, Chen’s heroine is less saintly than other portrayals have suggested—and far more intriguing. This visceral and vital novel is historical fiction at its very best.
Chen (Mary B) offers a smartly written rendition of the life of Joan of Arc (1412–1431). The story begins with Joan at 10, growing up in a large family in the French village of Domrémy and raised by her abusive father, Jacques. Joan's simple life is soon transformed by her encounter with major historical events after 17-year-old Charles VII, heir to the French throne, is removed from France's line of succession by his father Charles VI and Henry V of England. As Joan grows up and becomes more skilled with weaponry, she seeks to fight for Charles VII, finally meeting him and working her way toward being the head of the French army. Contrary to common depictions of Joan as a religious fanatic, Chen's Joan is a secularized heroine whose relationship to God amounts to "bargaining" and whose very human nature sweeps her up in rivalries at court. Chen incorporates a plethora of courtiers and clergy, knights, soldiers, and common folk into her vivid scenes, whether a village fair at Vaucouleurs or the daily struggles in war-torn France. While some readers may question Chen's reimagining of Joan's character, she does a wonderful job depicting Joan's soldier mentality and fierce heart. Like the passionate protagonist, this is a force to be reckoned with.
This is the whole story of the future Saint Joan of Arc. Just wonderful!
Never wanted it to end
I could not put it down. I never wanted it to end.
I have never been so swept up in a story as this partial fictionalization - which feels less like history and more like a window into the soul of a saint who was a real person.
The book has so much for so many. I hope to read it again.
Thank you for this.
An old story, with new life breathed into it
What a masterful, inspiring, well told story! This easily compares to Mark Twain’s version — but much more contemporary, much more accessible.