With beautiful, melancholy, and deliberate writing, Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan takes us on a journey to examine humanity at its dying moments and its struggle for redemption.

A powerful and nihilistic retelling of the Joan of Arc story set in the aftermath of a war that almost destroys the earth, this story jumps between various characters trying to come to terms with their own humanity while reconciling their dark future with their destructive past.

With an apocalyptic backdrop that rivals that of Margaret Atwood herself, Yuknavitch appears to draw strong parallels with current events, making the inevitable seem more plausible and therefore much more terrifying. The world is well built and meticulous in design, allowing us to become completely immersed in the events, feeling every cut and bruise along with the characters. The author doesn’t shy away from frightening her audience, using sharp and often crude language to evoke and shock.

The story is partially set on the remains of the earth and partly on CIEL, the circling spaceship that carries the last of the humans, morphing into barely recognisable beings, losing control of their own identity and ideas, waiting for the end. Amidst the bleak outlook, a spark is still there in the form of the empowering Christine, who uses tattoos to tell the story of the legend of Joan, the ferocious leader of the revolution.

Containing strong and driven female leads while redefining the concept of gender, this book is full of raw power and courage. There are no cliches or familiar handholds throughout the story. There is nothing ordinary. The introspective and echoey writing style lingers with the reader and at points is almost musical.

The Book of Joan is lyrical and inspiring, taking a brutal and honest look at what it means to be human and at the strength of love and sacrifice. Relentless and poetic, there are few books that will leave such a mark on those who read it.