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The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined

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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 p 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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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 p 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.

30 review for The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined

  1. 5 out of 5

    Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard

    Plot twist: she dies Why have I never read verse before this year?! It lends itself SO WELL to historical fiction! I really liked the start of this book especially since her family life is not something I've really ever heard of. I also loved how this showed how heavily manipulated faith was in order to suppress women. Also, big shout out to the author for simplify the Hundred Years War and complex political conflicts into like 3 digestible pages at the beginning.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Caylynn Bleess

    Even if I can't change the direction of the wind, why must I agree that foul air smells sweet? Meh. I can't say that I really enjoyed this one as much as I hoped I was going to. Admittedly, I found myself continuously comparing this novel to David Elliott's Voices that was published back in March of this year. I was absolutely blown away by that novel, since it was my first introduction to fiction told through verse. However, The Language of Fire just fell a little too short for me. Where Ellio Even if I can't change the direction of the wind, why must I agree that foul air smells sweet? Meh. I can't say that I really enjoyed this one as much as I hoped I was going to. Admittedly, I found myself continuously comparing this novel to David Elliott's Voices that was published back in March of this year. I was absolutely blown away by that novel, since it was my first introduction to fiction told through verse. However, The Language of Fire just fell a little too short for me. Where Elliott's novel told Joan of Arc's tale through visually stunning works of written art, Hemphill's book is made up of simple freeform poetry. Relatively short stanzas that don't even rhyme (which isn't usually a problem for me) fill up an unnecessary amount of pages. While I enjoyed the story itself for the most part, I don't think the author's style of writing fits with verse in general. I probably would've liked this book a lot more if it was told in a typical BOOK layout. Also, I hate to admit it... but I was a tad bit annoyed by how monotonous Joan was. There wasn't any change in regards to her POV and voice throughout the entirety of the novel. And since the whole story was told through her perspective, it really dragged the book to the point where I just wanted to skim some of the stanzas. The inclusion of multiple side characters is what really brought my love of Voices up a few notches, since Elliott used numerous forms of poetry to differentiate between each character's POV. If Hemphill had done this, I'm sure it would've broken up the repetitive flow of the story. I would definitely give this book a read if you love reading about Joan of Arc like I do. It wasn't a terrible novel, by any means, but I think that Voices dominates the JoA verse stories to the point where it has ruined every other one for me lol. I'll never say no to getting my hands on more tales about my favorite heroine, which is why I gave The Language of Fire 3/5 instead of 2/5.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Hager

    Stephanie Hemphill explains in a note before the book begins that she chose to call Joan of Arc Jehanne because that was how she referred to herself. Also, like her other books, this is a novel in verse. I didn't know very much about Joan of Arc before reading this book. (Young girl hears voices from God, leads an army, burned at the stake, eventually canonized.) I'm over twice her age now; she was martyred at 19. Another thing I didn't know is that she started hearing voices (technically, she hea Stephanie Hemphill explains in a note before the book begins that she chose to call Joan of Arc Jehanne because that was how she referred to herself. Also, like her other books, this is a novel in verse. I didn't know very much about Joan of Arc before reading this book. (Young girl hears voices from God, leads an army, burned at the stake, eventually canonized.) I'm over twice her age now; she was martyred at 19. Another thing I didn't know is that she started hearing voices (technically, she heard from three saints) at 13. I can't even imagine how terrifying that must have been or how hard it would be to find the courage to believe that you're really supposed to lead the French army and get the correct person on the throne. It'd be hard enough to believe it today, but back in the 1400s when women didn't do anything but get married and have kids? Hard pass. While I learned a great deal about Jehanne while reading this, it didn't feel at all like homework. She was a trailblazer although I don't think she would've agreed with that assessment; she felt she was just doing what God wanted.  As Stephanie Hemphill pointed out, she's the only female warrior most people can name and the only woman who saved a country who wasn't born into a royal family. (She was actually a peasant.) It's an amazing legacy, but it's also more than time for there to be multiple examples of this. At any rate, I loved this book and hope to read more about Joan of Arc.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emilee King

    I should’ve guessed this book would be a little heavy, but I’m shocked at how much it hit me. Such a unique blend of history, fiction, and faith. Honestly makes me wish for more female-led scripture stories. Not only did I learn a lot, but Jehanne’s personal and endearing narrative combined with a unique writing style and hard-hitting tale makes for powerful storytelling 4.6/5

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    3.5/5 stars The Language of Fire is a Young Adult version of Joan of Arc told through verse. This book is divided into eight parts and tells the story of Joan of Arc. The book starts with a very long foreward explaining the actual story. Before reading this I wondered if the verse would be extremely complex. But the book is written quite simply, in very short chapters. And it was easy to understand. The narrator is Jehanne (how the author refers to Joan of Arc). The book comes across almost as non-f 3.5/5 stars The Language of Fire is a Young Adult version of Joan of Arc told through verse. This book is divided into eight parts and tells the story of Joan of Arc. The book starts with a very long foreward explaining the actual story. Before reading this I wondered if the verse would be extremely complex. But the book is written quite simply, in very short chapters. And it was easy to understand. The narrator is Jehanne (how the author refers to Joan of Arc). The book comes across almost as non-fiction. But I guess it is a combination between actual facts and how the author imagined things happening. But truthfully when I saw that the book was called "Joan of Arc Reimagined" I was sort of hoping for a different type of retelling. Maybe a contemporary setting. Or the author completely re-imagining Joan's life. But that is not what this book is at all. Overall, I definitely enjoyed the way this story was told. It was a very interesting way to tell the story. It is basically the retelling of a famous historical figure told through verse. Thanks to edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for allowing me to read this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    UM YES PLEASE Joan of Arc is the best

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    This book begins when Joan of Arc, in her early adolescence, first hears the voice of God assigning her the task of helping to end the Hundred Years' War, and continues up to and beyond her death. Told in the format of a verse novel, the book reimagines the rise of a well-known historical figure in a way that feels completely fresh and full of the kind of details that are often discarded when discussing the almost mythical leader. An excellent retelling.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Ferencz

    This book took me a while to read, but I learned a lot about Joan of Arc and appreciated the way the author helped take us inside the story and situation.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shauna Yusko

    Long but good. Pair with Elliott’s Voices

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    I don't have much taste for verse, but I received an ARC and IT'S JOAN OF ARC. She and I have been tight for a long time. The verse was very accessible and being written for a younger (teen/YA) audience didn't detract from the quality. The style feels simplistic but compliments Joan’s earnestness and devotion. Excuse me while I go rewatch Joan of Arc (1999).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tamara

    Even if I can't change the direction of the wind, why must I agree that foul air smells sweet The Language of Fire is a fascinating novel. It recounts Joan of Arc's life from her childhood to her early death and fills this myth of a girl with so much life and detail. It does all that in verse form which is a fascinating writing style in itself and which works beautifully in this context. Though the plot sometimes drags and the battles and journeys weren't as interesting to me as I would have liked, Even if I can't change the direction of the wind, why must I agree that foul air smells sweet The Language of Fire is a fascinating novel. It recounts Joan of Arc's life from her childhood to her early death and fills this myth of a girl with so much life and detail. It does all that in verse form which is a fascinating writing style in itself and which works beautifully in this context. Though the plot sometimes drags and the battles and journeys weren't as interesting to me as I would have liked, the story is still incredibly unique and teaches the reader about Joan/Jehanne and her life as well as the situation France was in at the time. Verse form is perfect to visualise her prayers/conversations with God and herself and while I'm not religious myself and never felt any connection to that topic I found Jehanne's thoughts deeply relatable. Her story is moving and many parts of it still resonate today. This novel can be very dark - not surprising when considering the topic - and some poems are viscerally real but it still left me hopeful. I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss/Blazer + Bray

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tasya Dita

    I received an e-ARC through Edelweiss Plus in exchange for an honest review Joan of Arc has been a fascinating figure for many centuries for many people. There's not many known of her as a person, what we know of her is claim to be chosen by God, her subsequent role during the 100 years war and her eventual death. Many fascination rests on the fact she was a simple farmer's daughter, whose role and place were defined strictly at her time, and yet she managed to lead an army towards victory. This I received an e-ARC through Edelweiss Plus in exchange for an honest review Joan of Arc has been a fascinating figure for many centuries for many people. There's not many known of her as a person, what we know of her is claim to be chosen by God, her subsequent role during the 100 years war and her eventual death. Many fascination rests on the fact she was a simple farmer's daughter, whose role and place were defined strictly at her time, and yet she managed to lead an army towards victory. This book offers an insight through Joan's mind from her childhood to her death. Unfortunately, it felt monotonous in many places. It is written in verse, so many aspects are skipped and not explained in details. I love the reflection on the role of women and how she was hated basically because she was a girl and didn't fit the role she was supposed to be- I think verses are a great medium for this. But to tell her story as a whole, of her experiences and battles instead of her thoughts, this writing style just doesn't fit and removes a lot from the reading experience.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    The Language of Fire is Joan of Arc's story from her own perspective, told in verse. The poems easily flow from one to the next, making a timeline of Joan's life from her childhood and first encounters with the voice of God, to her finals days and execution. In terms of structure, this was very similar to another book I've read, Blood Water Paint . I love seeing these new ways of telling stories becoming more popular. I think it adds a new element to them, especially stories like Joan's that ar The Language of Fire is Joan of Arc's story from her own perspective, told in verse. The poems easily flow from one to the next, making a timeline of Joan's life from her childhood and first encounters with the voice of God, to her finals days and execution. In terms of structure, this was very similar to another book I've read, Blood Water Paint . I love seeing these new ways of telling stories becoming more popular. I think it adds a new element to them, especially stories like Joan's that are widely known. Thanks to Edelweiss+ and Balzer + Bray for the eArc.

  14. 5 out of 5

    sgould8

    This is an intense story- absolutely amazing what thirteen year old Jehanne/Joan of Arc set into motion and accomplished in the 15th century. With everything going against her- her sex, age, and social status- she managed to lead an army and accompany the king of France to his coronation. I hope that's not a spoiler; we probably all know how it ends. The book itself is told in verse, so it flies by. Historical fiction, but very unique, and in the YA section of my public library. Highly recommend This is an intense story- absolutely amazing what thirteen year old Jehanne/Joan of Arc set into motion and accomplished in the 15th century. With everything going against her- her sex, age, and social status- she managed to lead an army and accompany the king of France to his coronation. I hope that's not a spoiler; we probably all know how it ends. The book itself is told in verse, so it flies by. Historical fiction, but very unique, and in the YA section of my public library. Highly recommend if you have any interest in Joan of Arc.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    While it was a little dry for some of the historical parts (the travel and battles, mostly), I thought it was overall interesting and offered insights about society's treatment of women that are still relevant. It was also quick to read and absorb. I'll be sure to check out the author's Wicked Girls someday (about the witch trials in Salem), to see if it's similarly reflective about women and history. (EDIT: I forgot to note that my copy was an ARC, so it did have some typos and I'm assuming part While it was a little dry for some of the historical parts (the travel and battles, mostly), I thought it was overall interesting and offered insights about society's treatment of women that are still relevant. It was also quick to read and absorb. I'll be sure to check out the author's Wicked Girls someday (about the witch trials in Salem), to see if it's similarly reflective about women and history. (EDIT: I forgot to note that my copy was an ARC, so it did have some typos and I'm assuming parts of it would have changed between my copy and the final release copy.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    I enjoyed learning more about Joan of Arc, a historical figure I previously knew little about. It is obvious from reading the author's note that Ms. Hemphill is passionate about Joan of Arc and that her novel-in-verse was well-researched. However, at more than 500 pages, I thought this book was twice as long as it needed to be. I was bored by the detailed descriptions of the battles and Joan's travels. Overall, I am giving this novel 2 stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    In The Language of Fire, Stephanie Hemphill has"reimagined" Joan of Arc's tale and told it not only in verse but in Joan's own voice. She elects to refer to Joan as Jehanne, which is how Joan referred to herself in documentation of the time. There was so much about Joan of Arc I didn't know and this book really enlightened me as to her journey, how she became a soldier and led the French Army and of her downfall and ultimate execution. It is not light reading but well worth the time to read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    emma

    I have a hard time reading books about Joan of Arc who subscribe to tropes that she hated femininity and things like sewing. This occurs within the first three pages of this book. I've read enough about Joan of Arc to know that this is a modern projection- there was nothing or little in history to suggest this. I might still read this book, but really, this grates on my nerves so much.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I've always been fascinated with Joan of Arc and this reimagining of her life was a wonderful exploration into her journey. I am inspired by her. Although I'm not particularly religious, I am her for Joan because she was steadfast in her beliefs and although she may not have intended to be she was quite ahead of her time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    While there are a few historical inaccuracies in this novel, it is, overall, true to the central story of Joan of Arc. This book really brought Joan to life with the beautiful verse. She came alive on the page, and I really felt for her. Her story is a powerful one, and this is a great novel to read to gain an understanding of that story. This is a great read!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tabrizia Jones

    This one had such a unique blend of fiction, history, and faith. Albeit long, this novel in verse dives more into detail what Joan may have been thinking throughout her life. Although a story that takes place in the past, this powerful storytelling makes Joan of Arc's story more relevant than ever. It does demonstrate female empowerment at its best.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Erikka

    This wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't great. It got very monotonous after about 100 pages and had way more detail than I think the intended audience would care about. I think the idea was solid and that Joan of Arc is a fascinating character, but this book made her seem very dull. It was definitely well researched and was clearly a passion project, so I'll give it credit for that.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Asteropê

    Interesting, there's another Joan of Arc verse novel for 2019 as well: Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. Will be interesting to see the different takes on the same figure.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    This book is a stunner, an epic work of poetry retelling the story of Joan of Arc in a very accessible and modern way. It’s meticulously researched and focuses more than anything on her humanity—her fears, her doubts, her devotion, and her bravery. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a story all girls and women need right now. She spoke her truth and never backed down. She was a true warrior.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I love novels in verse and I love historical fiction and I really love strong, warrior women. This version of Joan of Arc's story begins with the horrific knowledge that our protagonist will be burned at the stake. Then reading the story of this unwavering and powerful teenage girl makes us ache.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Not knowing much about Joan of Arc other than the basic text book information, I found this book intriguing. While none of us truly know what she was thinking, I enjoyed the "reimagined" idea of what she was thinking. I also enjoyed the story being told in verse.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nora

    Galley through Edelweiss. Some lovely moments in here as well as some dark turns. We trace Jehanne’s journey from young girl to warrior, and Hemphill gives her a strong voice, but I wanted more about her training and her relationships with the Dauphin and those she led in battle, which seemed to skim by.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    (-) Writing a sentence with no rhyme or pentameter should not be considered poetry or verse (-) This was so much longer than it needed to be

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Loved it! Poetic and lovely reimagining.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A great tale of Joan of Arc told in verse! She is such an inspiration! Great story for women to read :)

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