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One of history's most improbable and inspiring stories began with heavenly voices and visions. They were heard and seen by a young, illiterate French shepherdess. What they repeatedly and ever more insistently told her was mind-boggling: She must raise an army, liberate the city of Orléans, install a rightful French king, and drive the English from France. She heeded what she believed to be divine orders, and during a single year - 1429 - she persuaded the callow French king-in-waiting that she was God's emissary, donned a suit of armor, and led the French in a string of victories over the English in the conflict that future historians would call the Hundred Years' War. The French hailed her as the Maid and saw her as the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy. Two years later, she was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake. For a saga hinging on the fate of nations and God's plan for the world, Joan's tale unfolds in a surprisingly human way. The characters surrounding her are motivated by little more than power and politics. Again and again, they act - or fail to act - because of vanity, pride, ambition, petty disputes, or just plain dithering. Here is her remarkable story.

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