This is the third book I've received through the Early Reviewers Program and it is by far my favorite up to this point. Black Ships, inspired by Virgil's Aeneid, is Jo Graham's first novel. It is being published by Orbit Books which is itself a newer science fiction and fantasy imprint of the Hachette Book Group in the United States. I am so glad that I'm a part of the Early Reviewers program, because I don't think I would have come across this book otherwise and I am absolutely thrilled that I did because it was even better than I was expecting it to be.
Gull is the daughter of a Wilusian woman taken during war and enslaved in Pylos, but she is destined for greater things than slavery. After an accident that leaves her lame, she is no longer fit to work in the fields and is instead dedicated by her mother to the Lady of the Dead. She grows up to be a skilled oracle, Pythia, the voice and handmaiden of Death.
When what is left of the Wilusia attack Pylos while the navy is away, Gull takes the opportunity to return to the People she never knew. Led by Aeneas, the last prince of Wilusa (who has his own destiny to fulfill), the People must struggle to survive. Gull helps to search for a new homeland and a place to live in peace, something that is getting harder and harder to find. They will face war, battles, tempests, wild seas, and even Death, but they will face them together.
Graham's main source for the story was, of course, The Aeneid, since it is a retelling of sorts. But she also includes other useful and interesting resources in her author's note at the end. It is obvious from her writing that she has a passion and a great deal of enthusiasm for this time period. In fact, she has revived my own interest in the classical studies, legends and mythology. Never having read The Aeneid before, I would definitely like to now--so, I would say the author has accomplished at least one of her goals! Graham has written a wonderful debut novel that I really enjoyed. Her prose was simple, yet poetic and evocative; the characters and story developed and evolved beautifully over time. I will certainly watch for anything else that she might write.