Series: Boxers and Saints #2
Abused by her family, a young peasant girl flees her village and becomes a Christian convert. Now named Vibiana, she struggles to understand her calling in light of the visions she sees of Joan of Arc. When the Boxer Rebellion arrives at the gates, Vibiana will have to decide how strongly she believes in the faith she has adopted.
Drawn mostly in sepia tones, Saints is a more reflective volume than its longer predecessor, Boxers. In a parallel story, it follows a girl from Bao’s village as she leaves her unloving family and becomes a Christian convert–initially because she thinks Christians are “foreign devils” and that she is assuming the demon nature her family has ascribed to her. As the story progresses and the Boxer Rebellion gains in intensity, however, Vibiana must choose if she really values the faith she has been living.
Saints is a thought-provoking story, though its use of humor might obscure it reflectiveness for some readers. Vibiana does not convert out of any spiritual or intellectual conviction, and her growth seems from the outside a little rocky. She has a habit of asking questions that annoy some of the adults (though others appreciate her thirst for truth and knowledge) and she sometimes seems a little flippant about the faith, to the the despair of the priest who burns himself with an intensity others find uncomfortable. The wide range of Christians depicted, however, ultimately suggests that there is room for all in the faith as they struggle on trying to find their way and trying to become better.
Also intriguing are the visions of Joan of Arc, a figure Vibiana does not recognize and whose unfolding story intrigues her as she gets to live it. Joan inspires Vibiana with a desire to be like her by picking up a sword and fighting for her country. Juxtaposed with Bao’s own visions of the opera gods and his seeming ability to transform into them on the battlefield, Joan appears enigmatic. Is she real? Is Vibiana really seeing her? Ultimately, Vibiana must decipher for herself the message Joan brings and what that means for her own future.
Together, Boxers and Saints form a thoughtful look at the Boxer Rebellion, the motivations that drive people to commit acts of violence or acts of great sacrifice, and the ways in which war can distort one’s perception of what is right and what is wrong.