Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Black Ships Black Ships
by Jo Graham
Orbit Books

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

What happened to the people of Troy after the sack of the Mycenae (the Greeks lead by Agamemnon)? Virgil gave us one version in the Aeneid; Ms Graham gives another as seen from the point of view of a captive carried off to distant Pylos on the Adriatic Sea.

Black Ships is a reworking of the Aeneid retold with an eye to historical accuracy and context, and having the viewpoint character an oracle for Persephone (sister to Aphrodite who, with Apollo, was a patron god of Troy).

It is to Ms Graham’s credit that she kept the story within one book, telling the principal highlights of the recovery of the Trojans that could be found against the backdrop of the decline in non-Egyptian Mediterranean civilisation happening at the time. This was a story that could easily have been spun over several volumes thereby providing a vehicle to show off Ms Graham’s ample historical research; thankfully it was not.

I was also pleased to find the characters were not modern persons with modern sensibilities drifting through an almost prehistoric landscape (this story occurred at the dawn of writing in the western world). When the Greek and Egyptian gods are referenced there is no new-age posturing to introduce them. These were vicarious gods and Ms Graham’s worshippers know that.

Ms Graham has a fluid, engaging writing style that meant I was reluctant to put the book down and which made it a pleasure to read. I will definitely be seeking out her next (and second) book whenever that appears. As a writer of (barely) historical fiction Ms Graham is first rate and should be actively encouraged to write more.

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