Messenger: The Legend of Joan of Arc by Tony Lee; illustrated by Sam Hart

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messengerMessenger: The Legend of Joan of Arc by Tony Lee; illustrated by Sam Hart
Candlewick, 2015.

From the writer/illustrator team of Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood (2009) and Excalibur: The Legend of King Arthur (2011) comes this dramatic graphic novel interpretation of the story of Joan of Arc, set during the 100 Years’ War, and framed by her trial for heresy in 1431.

Following a fall and head injury, Joan (or Jehanne) has her first saintly vision when she was 13. She follows her ‘voices’ and leads the French army to drive the occupying English back. With the coronation of Charles VII, the French impetus stalls, and the English surge back; Joan is captured, tried, found guilty and burnt at the stake.

Joan is depicted as a punky, driven young woman, a leader utterly sure of her destiny. Her conviction and courage in the face of doubters, as well as the risks she takes by, for example, wearing men’s clothes, come through, but she is still a very human character as well.MESSENGER_spread

The historical narrative – the battles, the strategy, the trial – is well laid out, though occasional details are confusing, not helped by some of the characters being indistinguishable. Described as a work of fiction, there is, unfortunately and irritatingly, no author’s note to separate what is invention, and what is real and “used fictitiously.”

The illustrations are dynamic, but sometimes indistinct on details, and a strong use of color denotes the mood – a melancholy blue for the trial, a fierce red for battle scenes, an intense gold for Joan’s visions.

Overall this is decent, accessible historical fiction, ideal for tween and young teens.

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