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Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin
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's review
May 05, 10

bookshelves: fantasy
Read in August, 2009

This retelling of Virgil's Aeneid from Lavina's point of view is blissfully mythic. I often prefer ancient world to medieval fantasy, because people in the ancient world experienced life through a mythic mindset, or so I believe. Like you could say the Australian aboriginal dreamtime was real, because those people used it to navigate their world, the mythic world of Vesta, Juno, and Mars was real because the Latins' mental model of the world revolved around them.
Ursula Le Guin really worked at her research, and made pre-Roman Italy come alive through the eyes of Lavina, a king's daughter. When young Lavina gets a message from a dying poet of the future (Virgil), she realizes she is part of an epic fate. Her older, wiser, voice as a narrator comes from not from an old woman, but from her story. This is a story narrated by the story itself.
The reader need not know the epic poem, everything needed by the novel is layered into the tale. The writing is powerful, the story incredible, and the characters both exotic and approachable.
I can see why this won the Locus award for the best fantasy novel of the year.
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