Monday, July 19, 2010

Hand of Isis - Jo Graham

Hand of Isis
Jo Graham
Orbit
Copyright Date: 2009
978-0-316-068024

The jacket blurb:
Set in ancient Egypt, Hand of Isis is the story of Charmian, a handmaiden, and her two sisters. It is a novel of lovers who transcend death, of gods who meddle in mortal affairs, and of women who guide empires.
I read and reviewed this book last year and absolutely loved it then. My opinion hasn't changed any since. Charmian's story is also Cleopatra's story, and Jo Graham has written it in such a way that even though we all know how it ends, we wish it could be otherwise. Hand of Isis is not exactly a happy story, given that fact, and there is a sense of inevitability about the events as they happen, but at the same time, it's such a beautiful and evocative one.

The last time I read this book, I hadn't read either of the others: The Black Ships and Stealing Fire. Both of those are set before the events in Hand of Isis, and due to the theme of reincarnation, Hand of Isis does make a number of references to the events in the previous two books: Stealing Fire, especially. Regardless, this book can be read on its own and make full sense. But, I've found this time that the knowledge of the events of Stealing Fire just makes Hand of Isis even better.

I know I've commented on this before, but I really love the cover for the trade paperback edition (shown at the top of this post) as compared to the new mass market edition to the left. I'm honestly not sure if I would have picked the book up with this cover, given that it was an impulse buy that made its way into my hands on the strength of the cover. This cover just makes me think of the "vintage" sf/fantasy covers of the 1970's and 1980's. The trade paperback cover has an air of mystery and sadness to it, not to mention the resonances of artists such as Turner who've done some classic maritime paintings.

Regardless of the cover though, I can't recommend Hand of Isis enough. If you liked Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, give this book a try. If you like historical fantasy, give this book a try. If you like stories of ancient Egypt, give this book a try. Just, give Hand of Isis a try. I can't say enough good things about the story.
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