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Black Ships Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; Reprint edition (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316067997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316067997
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Graham's exquisite and bleak debut views the events of The Aeneid through the oracle Gull, a disciple of the Lady of the Dead. Taken to the Lady's temple after being lamed in a chariot accident, Gull quickly displays her power to see the future. Her first vision—black ships fleeing a burning city—lets her recognize Aeneas when he arrives after the fall of Wilusa (the Hittite name for Troy), hoping to save those sold into slavery. Gull joins Aeneas, and they take the few remaining people of Wilusa on a glorious journey to find their scattered brethren and a site where they can found a new city. Historians will admire Graham's deft blending of Virgil's epic story and historical fact, most notably the creation of Egyptian princess Basetamon to take the place of magnificently anachronistic Dido. Graham's spare style focuses on action, but fraught meaning and smoldering emotional resonance overlay her deceptively simple words. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Haunting and bittersweet, lush and vivid, this extraordinary story has lived with me since I first read it Naomi Novik --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Sergio on March 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
A well constructed opening to this novel of Trojan refugees draws the reader in quickly and never disappoints. This is a wonderfully crafted story which takes place at the end of the age of heroes and the beginning of the story of Rome. Almost hidden behind marvelous storytelling is an excellent conflation of the mythic and heroic tales of the ancient Greek world, and the historic and archeological records related to ancient Greece, the Middle East, ancient Egypt, and pre-Roman Italy.

This is one of those novels whose three dimensional characters grow on the reader to the point that finishing the book is like watching old friends disappearing around the bend. Though Black Ships tells of the many adventures these refugees encounter in their wanderings, real excitement comes from watching as the main characters struggle to find their path - sometimes relying on faith in the whispers of gods; sometimes by trusting their own judgement.

Jo Graham tells the story through a significant female character, and the feminine experience is a major theme of the book. However, she has avoided one of my frequent complaints about novels that strive to give a 'new' point of view. She has done a fine job of "fleshing out" both male and female characters, and giving some of the male characters 'real' lives that are not always told only as they impact the main character/narrator/

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys a well crafted adventure story, but, for those with an interest in the history and mythology of the ancient Mediteranean, this is a real treasure.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) VINE VOICE on May 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
There's nothing I love so much as sinking into a big fat book that combines the sweep of history with a dash of magic. This book is an adaptation of the Aeneid, from the point of view of the Sybil who, in the poem, guides Aeneas through the underworld.

She's a lot more fleshed out here. Her name is Gull, later known as Linnea and as Pythia, and jumps off the page from the very beginning of chapter one with a self-introduction that reminded me a bit of Phedre's at the beginning of Kushiel's Dart. The wording and the voice are different, but it's the same sort of introduction: This is me. This is who I am. Take me or leave me--and if you take me, I've got a damn good story to tell you.

Gull is the daughter of a Trojan slave. When she is crippled in an accident, her mother realizes she'll be seen as a useless mouth to King Nestor. She takes the girl to be apprenticed to Pythia, an oracle and priestess of Persephone, the Lady of the Dead. In time Gull succeeds to the role of Pythia herself, and it seems that she will spend the rest of her life prophesying from her remote cave. Fate, however, has other plans.

Aeneas and his ragged band of refugees from Troy arrive to raid Nestor's palace, and Gull's life is forever changed.

(Oh, I should explain that Graham posits two separate Trojan Wars in this tale. Gull's mother was abducted in the first; Aeneas fled the city in the second.)

The novel follows Aeneas, Gull, and Aeneas's courageous and sexy captain, Xandros, as they search for a place to call home.

To me, one of the major themes of Black Ships is being human in a world that calls for larger-than-life gods and heroes.
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Format: Paperback
The daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, Gull is an oracle, the voice for the Lady of the Dead. When nine black ships appear, captained by Aeneas, the last Trojan prince, Gull joins her mother's people on their flight from Greek enemies and their attempt to find a new land to call home. Black Ships follows the journey of the Aeneid, but revised: with careful historical revisions, a cast of incredibly real characters, and skillfully interwoven religion, it is the personal story about the founding of an empire. There are a few little quibbles--who am I kidding? This novel is brilliantly conceived and executed, bringing history to life with the utmost care and skill. Black Ships is a stunning debut novel, and it deserves an unqualified recommendation.

Not unlike Mary Renault's novels or Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon, Graham's Black Ships takes a part historical, part mythological, part religious story--here, Virgil's Aeneid--and brings it to life via realistic characters, historical integration, and religious overtones. Gull, the protagonist and narrator, becomes close adviser to Aeneas and fast friends with one of the ships's captains, and these relationships and characters--as well as the dozens of others that populate the book--feel real, pulling the story to a local level where every character has meaning. Gull joins Aeneas's fleeing fleet of ships as they journey across the Mediterranean sea, looking for safety and for a place to call home, and here the journey in the Aeneid is revised--ahistorical Dido, for example, is replaced by an Egyptian princess. These changes create a story which is all the more meaningful and impressive for its realistic rendering.
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