A review by corabookworm
Joan by Katherine J. Chen

adventurous emotional inspiring tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


So, to preface this: I may have a ✨slight✨ obsession with Joan of Arc right now. (Just a little one. Tiny. Has not Consumed Me™️ in the slightest.) So I found this book at the bookstore and went into it knowing NOTHING. Read no reviews, barely skimmed the summary. I had zero expectations, but if I’d had ANY, this book would’ve surpassed them.

Katherine J. Chen packed this historical fiction full of vibrant, flawed characters, the most real among them Joan herself. Chen's version of Joan is driven by determination and fury, bubbling with bravery and brimming with intelligence. She is hardworking, strong, naïve, bold, and above all else, she is good. She helps people, she loves people, she claws her way to victory, she tries over and over again, she makes mistakes. She is hurt, betrayed, loved, and respected. Seeing Joan taken down from her saintly pedestal and fleshed into a real person, a character spilling over with human emotion and actions, meant so much to me. 

One thing I found interesting about this novel (and noticed complaints about in Goodreads reviews) is how weak the religious themes actually are. In this novel, Joan does not see angels. She is not guided by God. Rather, she is naturally strong and skilled, and she uses religion as a tool—a way to be heard and understood despite being a woman. And she doesn't stand on the sidelines of battles waving a banner—she fights. Katherine J. Chen took a saint and made her a warrior. If you're looking for something that focuses on the religious aspects of Joan's story, I'd choose a different book. 

Beyond that, this book was fairly accurate to history, as far as I know. It focuses a lot on Joan's life before she fought for the King and on her time at Court, creating a vivid image of what life in France was like for various people at this time.  Every twist and turn of the story had my heart either cracking or singing with joy, and the ending felt like a punch in the gut (in a good way. kinda). I am so beyond impressed with this story and these characters, and every emotion Chen made me feel. If you like historical fiction, or strong and capable main characters, or women with swords, please please please read this book. <3