I have a confession to make; I’ve always hated the mealy-mouthed Joan of Arc of legend, the Maid of Orleans who was driven by angelic voices to lead armies with the aim of putting Charles Vll on the throne of France. I have even secretly thought that she might have deserved being burnt at the stake for being too saintly… This Jeanne, however, is wonderful, a richly drawn woman who is capable of fierce love, of deep friendships, of railing against her fate for as long as possible, until it threatens the lives of those she loves. And her voices! Oh wow – no longer saints, but something akin to the Celtic fae, old and strong and unstoppable, with an unknowable but guaranteed unholy purpose. We follow Jeanne in her struggle against these terrible and terrifying companions from early childhood, each small rebellion bringing punishment, forcing her to take the next step along that preordained path, but building a greater resolve to rebel each time.
This story follows the history as I learned it at school, but with a deep dark undercurrent of evil. It brilliantly takes us along Jeanne’s journey and her fight for the good, to keep those she loves safe, at a terrible personal cost. It goes beyond Charles’s coronation to a new, unguessed-at, but tremendously satisfying ending to the story. I keep wanting to describe it as historical fantasy rather than historical fiction, but the fantasy element is all in Jeanne’s head, and is just as good an explanation for Joan’s actions as the angelic one. I think this is the best book I’ve read all year; the Kindle version comes out in 2020, the paperback in 2021, and I thoroughly recommend it.