It’s hard not to enjoy a good pirate yarn and Helen Hollick makes it especially easy with Sea Witch. Pirate lore and a large dose of magic from the seIt’s hard not to enjoy a good pirate yarn and Helen Hollick makes it especially easy with Sea Witch. Pirate lore and a large dose of magic from the sea witch of the title (and mystical appearances from Tethys, spirit of the oceans) put this series squarely in the fantastical range, so be sure you enjoy a leap onto the wild side before you pick up this book.
Once you’ve established that, this is a page-turning, entertaining read. Hollick builds in the details of pirate life both on ship and in port with a precision and depth that can only come from good historical research, but you won’t have time to notice this sturdy framework as her plot twists and surprises.
We get to know a three-dimensional young woman named Tiola just as she is cut adrift from her family and known world when her mother is suspected of being a witch and hanged for the murder of her husband. The irony, as Tiola points out, is that she is the witch, not her mother—a white witch with very handy medical skills that she eventually turns into a steady if modest income in her new surroundings. Through Tiola we watch the limitations on 18th century women—choose a loveless marriage to a rich man or try to make it alone in a world that assumes you can’t—with the piquant sauce of knowing that Tiola isn’t the helpless lass she appears to be.
The hero, Jesamiah Acorne, has a similar origin tale in the sense that he also as teenager was thrown out to make his life without family or financial support—despite his upper class start. Generally speaking, men of the 18th century had an easier time making a living than women, but then Jesamiah doesn’t have any otherworldly powers, so Tiola may not have to fight as hard as he does. What he does exploit are his natural talents for strategy, reckless courage and his dead father’s connections to the pirate world. By the time his path crosses Tiola’s (that he can remember, anyway), he is an accomplished pirate captain, perpetually in trouble, but as free as can be. Well, mostly. Prison and pirating do seem to collide at times.
These parallel stories of young people making it alone and turning themselves into the adults of their choice give this spicy tale a pleasing resonance that goes beyond “just a good story.” That they face such daunting enemies keeps the excitement high throughout. Their love story is charming and full of humor as well as sexual allure.
Nothing happens quite how you expect in this book, which is certainly how I like my books, unpredictable and fun.
For anyone interested in the historical Troy, this is the best single book to read. It's up to date and written by one one of the foremost historiansFor anyone interested in the historical Troy, this is the best single book to read. It's up to date and written by one one of the foremost historians writing about ancient Troy, the Hittites and surrounding peoples. He examines Troy in the context of the Homeric poems and in relation to the rest of the Near Eastern and Aegean world. For more articles and reviews about the Hittites go to www.judithstarkston.com...more
If you like your Homer with a postmodernist twist, Mason’s boundlessly imaginative redo of the Odyssey will charm you. Reading Mason’s 44 “books,” aboIf you like your Homer with a postmodernist twist, Mason’s boundlessly imaginative redo of the Odyssey will charm you. Reading Mason’s 44 “books,” about two to six pages each, reminds me of the experience of turning a prism and launching completely different colors across the room. Sometimes you’re in a bizarrely modern environment, say a sanitarium or a place where books have pages and bindings (i.e. not the ancient world), other times you’re in a variation that skims close to the Homeric narrative but is tipped on its end somehow. You never know which Odysseus (or Achilles or Penelope or Athena) you will meet. He pretends to have papyri and other ancient sources at his fingertips complete with occasional footnotes to guide you through.
Mason plays with the notion of the source of stories, a good postmodernist theme, and one that is also appropriate for an oral tradition. At one point he proposes the conceit that the Iliad was originally a manual for an ancient chess game, its maneuvers transformed over time into tales of battles and what appears to be a more literary endeavor. The Odyssey, in this flight of fancy, a “fantastic parody of a chess book, a treatise on tactics to be used after the game has ended and the board been abandoned by the players, the pieces left finally to their own devices and to entropy.”
I found The Lost Books of the Odyssey entertaining and thought provoking. It takes the idea of reinterpreting the tradition to a whole new level. It’s playful and at times tongue-in-cheek. I don’t entirely get all parts of this book, but I did find epiphanal glimmers sparking regularly. It held me, mentally twisting this way and that my image of Odysseus, the quintessential man of many turns. ...more