After hearing so many of my fellow FanLit reviewers sing the praises of Jo Graham’s debut novel Black Ships, and getting similarly glowing reviews from my sister, I borrowed her copy and settled down to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t have anything new to say about the plot that hasn’t been summarized in the other reviews, so instead I’ll focus on my reaction to this novel.
I have to say: this book was not oversold. The story lived and breathed, bringing the last days of the Age of Bronze into full vibrant detail. Graham has a real gift for writing descriptive prose. She manages to bring Greece and Egypt to life again. I could smell the sea salt, and feel the warmth of the Mediterranean sun baking into my bones. Graham did copious amounts of research for this book, and it shows because the cultures feel right down to the detail level. It was jarring to me when I realized how young the main character, Gull, is through most of the story, but the hefty responsibilities she shouldered would have been realistic for the society in which she lived.
I got Black Ships from my sister right before I started getting a steady stream of ARCs in the mail. I would end up reading a few pages in between the other ARCs. Unlike most books that you read in bits and pieces, I never had to go back and reread a section to catch up. Black Ships is so memorable that returning to it was like stepping back into another world and having it pick up right where you left off.
I can highly recommend Black Ships, and am looking forward to the other books following the stories of Gull through other lifetimes. Probably even more importantly, I am going to pick up a copy of the Aeneid and read the classic poem that Graham used as inspiration, something my history professor never managed to get me to do.