Saturday, March 07, 2009

Black Ships by Jo Graham

Books Completed: 53
Completion Date: February, 2009
Pages: 448
Publication Date: March 10, 2008

Reason for Reading: For Fun, New Author Challenge
"Haunting and bittersweet, lush and vivid, this extraordinary story has lived with me since I first read it." --Naomi Novik, author of His Majesty's Dragon

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.
I have to have a little 'fangirl' moment and tell the plain truth: I loved this book! Most of this happened pre-blogging days, but I am a huge Marion Zimmer Bradley fan. (I haven't read her Darkover series yet, though.) Anyway, I am talking more about Mists of Avalon and all the related books in the series. I love that series, but we all know me and rereading! Anyway, that is a long-winded way of saying that Jo Graham is the first author to remind me of Bradley. Marion Bradley wrote about strong women who are in many ways ahead of their times. There was also a spiritual background to her novels. Graham has taken those same ideas and made them her own.

Black Ships is the story of Gull. She is the daughter of a slave. Her mother was kidnapped from Troy after it was defeated. On the voyage to her new home Gull's mother discovers that she is pregnant. Her father is a faceless member of the enemy group. Instead of giving up all hope, though, her mother decides to have the child. Gull believes that she will be a slave for the rest of her life, but there are other plans for her. An accident leaves her unable to work, so her mother has to find another path for her to follow. Given into the care of an Oracle, Gull has a very different life than her mothers ahead of her. When the old Oracle dies and she must take her place, she finds herself thrust into a destiny that will go down in the history books.

Graham captures Gull in a very captivating way. She is far from perfect, but she is the voice of the Lady. She foresees nine ships coming to her home, and when this actually happens she finds her life changed forever. It appears that members of her mothers' culture have survived and they are plagued with the desire to find a new home. Gull joins the exiled prince as his Oracle and their adventures begin. The geography that they cover is very impressive. My favourite part was when they were in Egypt, but I like Egyptian novels to begin with. Prince Aeneas gets a bit side-tracked with the Pharoah's sister, and it looks for a while that they might be staying in Egypt permanently.

This is Gull's story. It starts when she is very young and goes to when she is nearing the end. While she is the main focus, there are also many wonderful secondary characters. Prince Aeneas is intriguing. He is a prince, but he soon has to become a king. It is Gull that helps him on that journey. Graham has done a very good job for a first novel. I really enjoyed the mixing of history and myth. I look forward to reading her next book!


  1. Marion Zimmer Bradley! History and myth! Strong women as protagonists! I'm sold.

  2. Nymeth: I hope you do get a chance to read it and you enjoy it!

  3. This sounds good. I've looked at it several times at the library but could never quite decide if it was my sort of thing. I love the mix of mythology and history. I may have to bring this one home one of these times! I still need to read Marion Zimmer Bradley, too.

  4. Danielle: I love Marion Zimmer Bradley. I still have some of her books to track down and read, so now I am thinking I should! This book is worth a read, too, though.

  5. It sounds like a great story and I love the cover too!

  6. Tink: It was really good! I am glad that it was brought to my attention. I really like the cover, too. Her next book has a nice cover as well.

  7. I've just finished this one. Really enjoyed it, a lot more than I expected. I may even read some Virgil now :)

    I'll most likely pick up her second book too, Hand of Isis, sounds interesting.


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