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Reviewed by Colleen Turner

I think it’s fair to assume that most people have at least heard of Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc). We’ve read of or seen the movies depicting Jeanne on her divine mission to rid France of the invading English and put the rightful King on the throne. However I, for one, did not know the full story of where she came from and how she ended up a martyred saint of France.

The Maid by Kimberly Cutter has done a wonderful job of bringing Jeanne to life and giving me a firmer grasp of who this young, brave maid was and what she really did for the God, and country, she loved.

In The Maid Jeanne relays her story – from dirty, abused farmer’s daughter in Domremy to captive prisoner of the English – to a priest named Massieu. We learn of her humble beginnings and her firm belief that she was born for so much more than the meager, cruel life of a farmer’s daughter and eventual wife. When she is visited by the powerful voices of saints in her parents’ garden at the age of twelve, she realizes that she cannot be tied down to any man but must do whatever God commands in his service. And what he commands is for her to ride through France, lead an army to fight off the English and crown King Charles VII in Reims.

For me, the beginning of Jeanne’s story was slow going. Once she leaves Domremy behind and begins her quest, however, the story becomes unputdownable. It’s action-packed and you cannot help but cheer for Jeanne in the hopes that she will be able to fulfill her mission and find some happiness in this cruel land she’s been born into, even as we’re told she is destined to die early on. The language and violence can be harsh at times but I felt it helped showcase the brutality of the war and warriors that Jehanne was surrounded by. The final betrayal by Charles VII and the seeming abandonment of her saints were devastating, but her ultimate decision to either live as a liar or die as a righteous daughter of God brought her story to a sad but satisfying conclusion.

Cutter describes in the author’s notes that much of what is told in the story is known fact and it makes the book that much more fascinating. She was able to take these seemingly miraculous facts and surround them with enough description and character development that I felt like I was right there next to Jeanne on her journey and on the battlefield. I am now very eager to read more about this enchanting heroine.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.