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Black Ships

by Jo Graham

      Gull was born into slavery, the daughter of a fisherman from the sacked city of Wilusa (Troy).† At first it looks as though her life will be unremarkable, but a road accident results in her being gifted to Pythia, the oracle whose wisdom is sought after by kings.† In turn, she too becomes Pythia and sees a vision of where her people will journey in order to bring back Wilusa, and be free from slavery.

If you think that you already know the story of Aeneas, think again!† Inspired by mention of a mystery woman in ancient texts, this is the story as told by a woman in the land of men.† That is not to say that this is a feminist tract: it is a novel showing how one woman at least found an important place for herself in a martial culture where women were not rated highly.

In contrast there is Egypt, an ancient land coming to the end of its glory and refusing to realize that it must change if it is to survive.† There are many parallels to our modern era, another time of war, when the balance of power is changing and the old stability is giving way to a new world.† Even nature isnít stagnant but in a state of flux as today — there are plenty of references to the destruction of Thera.† Perhaps this makes the book sound worthy and overly political, which it isnít.

There is room for wonder and fantasy, for romance and adventure—although if you hope for battle scenes, those are not a feature of this story, told by a woman who must neither shed blood nor see it shed.† The whole work could have done with a little editing in some places where it treads water, but it is always refreshing to read something different.† If you are tired of standard Tolkeinesque fare and donít care for urban fantasy this might suit. I would also recommend it for those who normally prefer historical fiction.

The Book

Orbit (Little, Brown)
3 July 2008
1841496995 / 9781841496993
Fantasy / Circa 1170BC / Greece, Egypt, Italy and other locations
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2008
© 2008