New author Jo Graham enters the realm of historical fantasy with a triumph in her first novel, Black Ships. A retelling of Virgil's Aeneid as a portrayal of the lifetime of a woman oracle and priestess, the book is painstakingly researched and fully evocative of the Bronze Age. Born as Gull, the daughter of a slave captured in the wars on Wilusa (Troy), Pythia finds her destiny as a Sybil of the Lady of Death. Joining the last few hundred survivors of Wilusa on their journey to find their future as a people, she becomes the beloved friend of Prince Aeneas and the lifetime lover of one of his captains. As she gains in insight, maturity, and wisdom, Pythia follows her people across the Mediterranean, where ultimately they discover their future and the embodiement of her dreams. Well-crafted, with full-fleshed characters and an introspective but not self-absorbed protagonist, this first novel brings to life an age and a set of peoples rarely so clearly put in context. I feared at first the novel might be one of personal obsessions or personal biases but instead found it to be an open, imaginative portrayal of lives seeking meaning and purpose in a time of political, religious, and social confusion. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical or fantasy works.
Note: This book will be available for purchase March 10, 2008. I had an early review copy from LibraryThing!