Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Black Ships - Jo Graham

The Black Ships
Jo Graham
Orbit Books
Copyright: 2008

Amazon.com Product Description:
The world is ending. One by one the mighty cities are falling, to earthquakes, to flood, to raiders on both land and sea.

In a time of war and doubt, Gull is an oracle. Daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, chosen at the age of seven to be the voice of the Lady of the Dead, it is her destiny to counsel kings.

When nine black ships appear, captained by an exiled Trojan prince, Gull must decide between the life she has been destined for and the most perilous adventure -- to join the remnant of her mother's people in their desperate flight. From the doomed bastions of the City of Pirates to the temples of Byblos, from the intrigues of the Egyptian court to the haunted caves beneath Mount Vesuvius, only Gull can guide Prince Aeneas on his quest, and only she can dare the gates of the Underworld itself to lead him to his destiny.

In the last shadowed days of the Age of Bronze, one woman dreams of the world beginning anew. This is her story.
The Black Ships is a retelling of The Aeneid as seen from the perspective of Gull, a girl who was born a slave but given to the temple of the Lady of Death. It's a very different view on this classic epic, and one I absolutely loved. Jo Graham has captured a similar feeling for this book to the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It's from a woman's perspective and there's a similar use of reincarnation for example.

I loved The Hand of Isis, Jo Graham's other book, which is a retelling of the story of Antony and Cleopatra, so I knew I'd really enjoy The Black Ships, and my prediction turned out to be true. I couldn't put this book down at all.

Given the setting of the Aeneid as the same period as Homer's Iliad and Odessey, Jo Graham has had to incorporate a lot of Minoan and Mycenean, mostly Mycenaean history and culture into the story. One great example of this is the island of Santorini/Thera, and there are a number of other, similar moments throughout the story.

In the back of this edition of The Black Ships is a bit of an interview with Jo Graham, where she talks about some different things such as music that she relates to Gull - Enya's Book of Days, and some of her favorite books: many of which are favorites of mine too: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz and Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.

Jo Graham has a new book coming out in May, Stealing Fire, about Alexander The Great and the Ptolomies. I can't wait for it. Given how much I liked both of Graham's current books, I'm sure I'm going to love this one.

The Black Ships is definitely a five star read.


Hannah Stoneham said...

This sounds fascinating. I like the idea of looking at a very male story from a female point of view. Thanks for an excellent review.


Unknown said...

Which is something else this book has in common with the Mists of Avalon. Glad you enjoyed it.

Thanks for commenting.

Holly said...

I liked this one too. I didn't know about the new book she had coming out. Will have to add it to my list :)


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