An oddly dispassionate biography, beginning with an excellent introduction to the political and social conditions of 15th-century France, then focusing on the saint's deeds and trial in the context of her time. Brooks' strength is her clear, well-organized presentation. She admires Joan as entirely human, practical, courageous--an occasionally headstrong gift whose faith comes naturally in a credulous age. An author's note points out that ""the only way a female with strong convictions on public events could be heard in that male-oriented society, was to claim some visionary experience."" Still, unlike the subject of Brooks' much admired Queen Eleanor [of Aquitaine] (1983), Joan fails to come alive here. With her great faith muted, her voices and mission carefully downplayed, and events and decisions explained in psychological terms and by social context, she seems bloodless--cut off from the sources of her strength. An excellent bibliography of other biographies and studies of Joan of Arc is appended. B&w photos and reproductions of artworks; index.