Girl. Warrior. Heretic. Saint?
Katherine Chen ~ Joan
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.
To me, Joan of Arc has always been a feminist, so I admit I was skeptical about a retelling billed as such.
I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. In Joan we are presented with a true heroine. Strong, determined and arrogant. Similar perhaps to heroes of Greek mythology, her childhood shows us a downtrodden girl who does not cower, but instead helps others and supports her family.
Her childhood chapters perhaps take too long, and are much slower in nature. They’re helpful for sure, but leave the adult Joan’s story feeling slightly neglected and rushed. There’s a gap of almost ten years between when we meet Joan and when the story moves to her adult life. I would have liked a little more to help me understand her better.
It’s very well done, although her rash, arrogant behaviour is irritating. Perhaps it’s true, but who knows? What I liked was that Joan wasn’t a miracle, wasn’t addressed by God. Chen has made her real, more relatable and believable as a heroine. She leaps off the page and we see her clearly standing before us, determined to fight for what she believes.
Other characters receive very little time. The Dauphin is despicable. Weak, spoilt and whiny, we despise him immediately, knowing that Joan is his latest ‘plaything’ but – as often happens – as soon as she fails, she will fade into insignificance, due to her lowly, female status.
It’s not a sad story though. True, there are tragedies and it’s not a ‘nice’ tale. But at its core is a message of resilience, overcoming the odds and triumphing in the face of adversity.
However, it also reminds us that pride comes before a fall, and that nothing lasts forever.
Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton Books and NetGalley for my copy. Opinions my own.