Select one of the keywords
Black Ships    by Jo Graham order for
Black Ships
by Jo Graham
Order:  USA  Can
Orbit, 2008 (2008)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I was intrigued to read Jo Graham's dedication of Black Ships to her father (who introduced her to The Last of the Wine), since I had the same experience with my own father at about the same age, and also found Black Ships reminiscent of Mary Renault's wonderful Greek historicals. The author gives us a retelling of The Aeneid - which describes Prince Aeneas of Troy's long wandering after the destruction of Troy, to end up in Italy and found Rome.

Black Ships is told from the point of view of a young priestess, who starts life as Gull, daughter of a linen slave of Pylos. Her mother was raped and enslaved after the fall of Troy (called Wilusa here). When Gull is small, she's lamed after a chariot wheel runs over her foot. This leaves her unable to do the same work as her mother, who takes her to the see Pythia, servant of the Lady of the Dead. Discovering that Gull has visions, Pythia takes the child as her acolyte. When Gull is seventeen, the old priestess dies, and her acolyte becomes Pythia, avatar of the Goddess of Death.

The next year, Neoptolemos, son of Achilles leads an expedition to once more attack Wilusa (whose remaining men are at sea at the time) returning with many female slaves. Then, as foreseen by Gull, nine black ships sail to Pylos, led by Prince Aeneas and seeking their women. Pythia intervenes to stop the bloodshed, orders the slaves freed, and joins the fleet (following the Lady's will) as their Sibyl.

What follows is Jo Graham's credible and fascinating take on Aeneas' and his people's wanderings - from Pylos to the Island of the Dead, to Byblos and Egypt (then ruled by Ramses), and from there to Italy - enriched by the relationship that develops between Gull/Pythia/Sybil, Neas and his captain and close friend Xandros (whose beloved wife and small children were slaughtered in one of the raids on Wilusa). There are storms at sea, many battles, love and loss before the People find their new place - and found an empire. If you enjoy this period in history - and a touch of fantasy - don't miss Black Ships.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews