Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lisa's Take - Black Ships (Jo Graham)

Man, I need to take that “be careful what you wish for” thing to heart. I was ruminating recently that I hadn’t read a single book that really got me riiiiight there since Lies of Locke Lamora. In general I was a little grumpy about the lack of emotional impact in the majority of the books I’d been reading – there were a number of books that were good at it, but not great.

Black Ships got me right there. I can only imagine how I looked sitting in the cafeteria snuffling and wiping away tears over the remnants of a Clementine.

This book is a re-telling of Virgil’s The Aeneid from the perspective of an oracle who traveled with Aeneas. Usually I shy away from historical fantasy, but I figured this one was set far enough back and had enough of a gods-and-magic twist that I’d give it a try. I’m supremely glad I picked it up, because it was an extremely enjoyable read. The characters were fantastic, the pacing and story telling just right, and the prose was lovely and evocative.

This was Jo Graham’s first novel, but it really didn’t feel like it at all. As she mentioned in her acknowledgements, she’s been working on it since she was a teenager, which I imagine gives you lots of time to perfect. I wouldn’t have guessed this was a first novel just from reading it, though, which is always an accomplishment.

So, if you want some good character-driven fantasy, pick this book up. Even if you don’t read many books based upon actual historical settings, I promise this one is excellent – you can just squint your eyes a little and pretend there are no real places involved. Black Ships is definitely well written, and I’ll absolutely be watching for Jo Graham to publish more books. I’m just going to go back to my melancholyish bittersweetfull malaise now, don't mind me.

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