Black Ships by Jo Graham

(Cover picture courtesy of Lost in a Good Book.)

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, she is destined to counsel kings.

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 admit, I was pretty uncertain about Jo Graham’s debut novel for the first few chapters.  It was (dare I say?) boring until Gull turned sixteen and became the Pythia.  After that, things got interesting and I was finally able to connect the Trojan War to her situation as well as apply what I know about the history of ancient Egypt and realize just how much effort Jo Graham put into Black Ships.

Gull, as I mentioned, becomes the voice of the Lady of the Dead and is known after that as Pythia.  The Lady talks to her, gives her visions, advice and premonitions that allow her to counsel the man who would become a legend: Aeneas.  Aeneas himself is an interesting character, but not very much like the hero of legend that other authors paint him as.  This is not necessarily a bad thing as it shows that Jo Graham is trying to paint him as a man, but as a man he seems to be lacking kingly qualities.  The other characters emphasize how much Aeneas doesn’t want to be a king, yet he really does behave like one.  He just doesn’t seem like much of a leader to me, but perhaps that’s from my own biased image of him.

The plot isn’t fast-paced in the traditional sense of the word, but the dialogue is witty and Jo Graham doesn’t really get bogged down in navel-gazing introspection, as is so common in historical fiction.  She has brought to life a period of chaos and uncertainty that has been neglected so often in literature, so I really do give her credit for that.  Black Ships, being her debut novel, isn’t nearly as good as Hand of Isis.  But with that said, one must also mention that her debut novel is better than a lot of authors’ fifth or tenth novels.

I give this book 3.5/5 stars.

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