The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined
The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined
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Annotation: In verse form, presents a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a fifteenth-century teenager commanded an army and helped crown a king of France.
Catalog Number: #183978
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 512
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-06-249011-7
ISBN 13: 978-0-06-249011-7
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
Horn Book
In this engrossing first-person, present-tense verse novel, Hemphill reimagines the fifteenth-century life of French martyr Joan of Arc from thirteen when "Jehanne" is first called by God, to leading troops on the battlefields, to being burned at the stake at nineteen. The spare, propulsive free verse reinforces Jehanne's passion for her unconventional life; the intimate narrative style makes her a sympathetic, relatable figure. An author's note separates fact from fiction. Additional historical context is included. Bib.
Kirkus Reviews
Hemphill (Fatal Throne, 2018, etc.), known for her verse biographies of young women, returns with the story of 15th-century Saint Joan of Arc.Jehanne, as the otherwise illiterate peasant girl spelled her name, was 13 years old when she first heard voices telling her she was to save France. It was 1425, and England and France were well into the fight for domination known as the Hundred Years' War. At 16, Jehanne convinced the captain of the French dauphin to take her to him. After showing Charles a vision of a golden crown, she rode as a soldier at the head of his army, raised the siege of Orléans, and saw him crowned Charles VII at Rheims. The next spring, however, she was captured by English factions, put on trial, and burned at the stake. In blank verse from Jehanne's point of view, Hemphill goes into extraordinary detail regarding the battles she fought and the men who did or did not support her—helped by the transcripts from Joan's actual trial, among the most detailed medieval records still extant. The decision described in her author's note to condense the holy voices Jehanne heard minimizes the elements of faith and piety; Jehanne is reduced to a protofeminist for modern readers. Also, the story slogs: It could have been half the length with twice the impact.Pick up David Elliott's Voices (2019) instead. (foreword, list of monarchs, author's note, further reading) (Historical fiction. 12-18)
Publishers Weekly
Free verse poems written in the first person tell the familiar tale of the medieval teenage peasant prophesied to liberate France from England. Hemphill (Hideous Love) refers to Joan as Jehanne-as the book-s subject herself signed it-and covers her young life, beginning at age 13; her interactions with France-s leaders; her subsequent military victories; her capture by the English; and her trial for heresy and subsequent burning at the stake at age 19. The heroine-s early years are imagined filled with angst and frustration (-It-s not as if I ask to be/ the girl on the margins-), while her later adolescence brims with certainty about her call and mission as she travels among the soldiers she leads, braves repeated threats, and suffers battle wounds. An author-s note explores liberties taken with the historical record, such as condensing the three voices that Jehanne reported hearing into one. Extensive historical detail will prove fatiguing for most readers even as Hemphill-s interpretation of known events, including Jehanne-s argument that she be released from an arranged marriage and vivid renderings of her long imprisonment, bring a sense of frail humanity to this outsize historical figure. Ages 13-up. (June)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* There are many books that chronicle the story of Joan of Arc, but this extraordinary first-person novel in verse brings readers into the young woman's heart and soul. In short chapters and using an almost clipped narrative, this moves with alacrity through Joan's life, from her days as an illiterate farm girl to her visionary mission king sure Charles, the dauphin, is crowned king of France rough the fighting that accomplishes the goal, and finally, to her imprisonment and horrifying death by fire. Throughout, readers experience Joan's puzzlement, determination, and reverence as she faces impossible odds to follow God's directive. Using extensive research (and fortunately there are primary sources to draw on), Hemphill both gives a personal account and explains the political situation between the French and English that roiled the two countries, all of which is bolstered by an author's end note that goes into the history of the 100 Years War. It's not easy to both tell a story and explain history, but Hemphill does both beautifully. The writing is often poetic with images that linger, especially once readers get inside Joan's head: that's when the story soars, and her commitment as well as her fears and doubts become clear. This is also a story of female empowerment, and there are important meditations on the expectations and perils girls and women face, then and always. A moving and in many ways motivating experience.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (5/1/19)
Starred Review for Horn Book (8/1/19)
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 7-12

The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France.

This extraordinary verse novel from award-winning author Stephanie Hemphill dares to imagine how an ordinary girl became a great leader, and ultimately saved a nation.

Jehanne was an illiterate peasant, never quite at home among her siblings and peers. Until one day, she hears a voice call to her, telling her she is destined for important things. She begins to understand that she has been called by God, chosen for a higher purpose—to save France.

Through sheer determination and incredible courage, Jehanne becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. She runs away from home, dresses in men’s clothes, and convinces an army that she will lead France to victory.

As a girl in a man’s world, at a time when women truly had no power, Jehanne faced constant threats and violence from the men around her. Despite the impossible odds, Jehanne became a fearless warrior who has inspired generations.

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