Everyone knows the story of Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who put Charles VII on the throne and spearheaded France’s victory over Britain before being burned by the English as a heretic and witch.
But things are not always as they appear.
Jeanne d’Arc was only five when three angels and saints first came to her. Shrouded by a halo of heavenly light, she believed their claim to be holy. The Archangel Michael and Saint Margaret told her she was the foretold Warrior Maid of Lorraine, fated to free France and put a king upon his throne.
Saint Catherine made her promise to obey their commands and embrace her destiny; the three saints would guide her every step. Jeanne bound herself to these creatures without knowing what she’d done. As she got older, Jeanne grew to mistrust and fear the voices, and they didn’t hesitate to punish her cruelly for disobedience. She quickly learned that their cherished prophecy was more important than the girl expected to make it come true.
Jeanne is only a shepherd’s daughter, not the Warrior Maid of the prophecy, but she is stubborn and rebellious, and finds ways to avoid doing – and being – what these creatures want. Resistance has a terrifying price, but Jeanne is determined to fight for the life she wants.
But when the cost grows too high, Jeanne will risk everything to save her brother, her one true friend and the man she loves.
Not everyone is destined to be a hero. Sometimes you have no choice.
Jeanne d’Arc is a regular girl, a farmers daughter, a younger sister. There is nothing outwardly special about her, so when three creatures disguised as angels appear to her and inform her she is to be the Maid of Lorraine destined to lead France and ensure the Dauphin is crowned five year old Jeanne is to scared to deny their claims and promises to fulfil the prophecy. As the years go by Michael, Margaret and Catherine are constant shadows in Jeanne’s life, reminding her of the promise she made and pushing her to do more to fulfil it. Eventually Jeanne’s path crosses with the Dauphin and his army, taken in by Ethan, a loyal Knight and friend to Charles he vows to protect her and the ‘Angels’ tell her to keep him close, he is to be one of her champions, someone who will not let her fall. But things are not always as easy as they seem, when her prophecy as the Maid of Lorraine is brought to light the Dauphin wants to use Jeanne to buoy his army, to actually put her into the battle. Jeanne tries to resist both the Dauphin and the Angels on her shoulder reminding her of her purpose, but both forces have the ability to harm the people that Jeanne loves and she will need to accept the prophecy and put herself in danger to ensure everyone she loves makes it out alive.
I will admit going into this knowing very little about Joan of Arc, apart from her death, so I had little to no expectations or ideas on where the story would go. Divine Heretic gives us a look into the life of Jeanne, an insight into her inner battles with the demons and the relationships both familial and romantic. We spend a large amount of time with Jeanne growing up, seeing how the demons influence not only her, but the people around her to ensure that she fulfils their purpose. She is incredibly strong willed and fights for those she loves. She only really gives into the Demons once they start taking their frustrations with her out on those she loves.
This is a weird one cause I enjoyed the book as a whole BUT there were a lot of things that just fell a bit flat. The pacing of the book seems to jump around. We get a large portion of the book set before Jeanne meets the Dauphin, when she is a simple farmers daughter, and I will admit that the first few chapters were a bit of a drag to get through. But there are also bits that seem to fly by. I would have liked more time with Ethan and the Dauphin and just felt the first part of the book went on a little longer than necessary. My other main issue was there were no real stakes, at no point did I feel my heart speed up a little, I was never worried for the outcome of the characters. Because of this I felt the book lacked a little something, I didn’t struggle to bond with Jeanne and I loved her interactions with the other characters, but there was no spark, no WTF moments, it just kind of ended.
There is a great and sweet romance in Divine Heretic and this was one of my favourite parts of the book. It was bittersweet, and though it was easy to guess who would end up with who, I still enjoyed their interactions. Jeanne’s lover is the one haven she has from the demons, her one ability to act out and twist the prophecy they have woven and I loved that addition to her story.
Like I said, I did enjoy this overall and the pacing definitely picked up in the second half. It’s not the story I expected, more a bittersweet story about how promises can be twisted, how they can break you, but also how they can save you. It’s about how we shouldn’t have to shoulder our responsibilities alone and how much of a weight can be lifted when you share your burden with others. I may not have enjoyed this one as much as Brightfall, Moyers Robin Hood retelling, but Jeanne d’Arc will always hold a special place in my heart.