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Black Ships

(Numinous World #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,598 ratings  ·  352 reviews
The world is ending. One by one the mighty cities are falling, to earthquakes, to flood, to raiders on both land and sea.

In a time of war and doubt, Gull is an oracle. Daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, chosen at the age of seven to be the voice of the Lady of the Dead, it is her destiny to counsel kings.

When nine black ships appear, captained by an exiled Troja
Paperback, 397 pages
Published March 19th 2008 by Orbit (first published January 1st 2008)
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3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,598 ratings  ·  352 reviews

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Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Arma virumque cano": [I sing of arms and the man]: Virgil states the theme to his epic, The Aeneid
"Multosque per annos errabant acti fatis maria omnia circum.": [And many a year they wandered, driven by the fates o'er all the seas.]

I was drawn to this book by the title and by J.M.W. Turner's classic painting, 'Aeneas and the Sybil, Lake Avernus',, illustrating one of the episodes of the epic and of the novel. The picture is one of my favorites. I enjoyed
I dread having to review books like this: mediocre books. A bad novel? One can let loose with witty criticisms. A good novel? One can gush effusive praise. But when it comes to reviewing a mediocre novel, I struggle to say more than simply: “meh”.

First, I should note that this book wasn’t at all what I expected it would be. From the title, Black Ships, and the mention of Troy standing out prominently in the blurb, I was expecting another Trojan War novel. It is actually set in the aftermath of t
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
Black Ships, by Jo Graham

In the interview at the end of the book, the author says that one of her favorite books is "Kushiel's Dart," by Jacqueline Carey. I can see a little of the style in "Black Ships;" Gull is a little like Phedre.

I can't write a summary that would quickly explain "Black Ships." The book is beautiful, with simple language and descriptions; I often found myself slowing down to enjoy the book and not simply racing ahead to finish the story. I was totally enthralled with the wo
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
The story is a variation of Virgil’s Aeneid, the journey of the displaced people of Troy in search of new lands to settle in and the founding of the city that will become Rome.

Let’s start with the positives:
• The author magically captured the atmosphere of ancient worlds
• The descriptions of the landscapes in this journey across the Mediterranean and Egypt are exotic and very evocative.

What I didn’t like:
• The stories is not quite faithful to traditional mythology. The author use well-known nam
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was pulled in by the beautiful cover and the promise of this being The Aeneid, but from a woman's perspective. It started off really really good, and actually reminded me a lot of Memoirs of a Geisha, but later it just disappointed me. I think my main issue with it was that there were entirely too many characters at times, and I felt the pacing was done poorly. At times I felt really rushed through major events, and at others bored with dullness.

It wasn't a horrible book, but I can't say I rea
Disclaimer: The publisher of this audio book gave me a free copy in return for a fair and honest review.

I suppose I should note, in all fairness that since the book starts with a quote from Michael Wood’s In Search of the Trojan War I knew I was going to like it. I should also note I was reading the second volume in this series before being given this, the first, volume. It is quite easy to read them out of order and not get confused.

Black Ships is one of those books that are going to set some
Black Ships is a retelling of the story of Aeneas' flight from Troy with his people, with aspects of it changed and rearranged to fit better with what we really know of history -- for example, to address the problem of Aeneas visiting Carthage before it is ever founded. Dido is replaced by Basetamon, a princess in Egypt. Basetamon herself isn't a real historical figure, but the role she plays is certainly possible. The relationship between Basetamon and Aeneas, and the impossibilities of it, are ...more
Elise Cohen
"New author Jo Graham enters the realm of historical fantasy with a triumph in her first novel, Black Ships. A retelling of Virgil's Aeneid as a portrayal of the lifetime of a woman oracle and priestess, the book is painstakingly researched and fully evocative of the Bronze Age.[return]Born as Gull, the daughter of a slave captured in the wars on Wilusa (Troy), Pythia finds her destiny as a Sybil of the Lady of Death. Joining the last few hundred survivors of Wilusa on their journey to find thei ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Historical Fantasy
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: A friend
Even though this book can be found in the fantasy aisle of the bookstore, there is little fantastical here that couldn't be rationalized, other than a few visions of prophecy. With Vergil's Aeneid as her basis, Graham uses the latest scholarship to recreate the late Bronze Age Mediterranean world. I liked, for instance, bits like how she incorporated theories about how the disaster at Thera might have led into legends of Atlantis and the marvels in the time of Moses in Egypt. (Since Carthage did ...more
Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews)

Solid three and a half stars -- so close to really liking thisr etelling of the Aeneid from the POV of the Sibyl. The author includes some big changes - ones that admittedly, make a lot of sense (view spoiler) - but there is a LOT of traveling. There are a few dull spots because of the repetitive nature of
Victoria Rose
I'd been so looking forward to reading Black Ships - a retelling of The Aeneid, filled with mythology, epic quests, complex characters and raging wars - especially after hearing that Jo Graham was influenced by Kushiel's Dart, perhaps my favourite book of all time.

Hopefully, I settled down to read it. The first page offers war, pillaging and murder. I paused from reading to rub my hands together with glee - this is my kind of book! But unfortunately, the next 400 pages were not quite so excitin
Matt Brady
A re-imagining of Virgil's Aeneid told from the perspective of Gull, born to a slave-woman taken in the Sack of Troy and destined for the priesthood of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. It's a rich period for historical fiction to mine, familiar and yet hazy enough that things can be warped and changed to fit the story's needs and Graham does it fairly well. The foreboding feeling of a slow apocalypse is evoked very well, and though it may seem strange to us, this being a time that we conside ...more
Sep 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: Hirondelle
Gull is given to Pythia's temple when she is young, and slowly learns the mysteries of the priestesses of death. Eventually she becomes the sibyl, just in time to receive a vision of approaching black ships. Her prophecy compels her to race into the town, where she prevents whole-sale slaughter between her mother's people and the people who took her as a slave. Gull goes with the Wilusans (from the Hittite's word for Trojans) as they search for a new homeland. As they travel they realize that th ...more
Lydia Presley
Apr 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Black Ships is a sort-of retelling of The Aeneid written by the Roman known as Virgil. This is the story of Aeneas, the last prince of Troy who sets out to find a new place to settle the remnants of his people after the great battle that wiped out Troy.

The story is told through the eyes of Gull, a young woman who was born as a slave, crippled as a child and ultimately became the Handmaiden of Death, otherwise known as Sybil.

I knew virtually nothing about this book before I picked it up to read
Frank Hintz
Jun 05, 2011 rated it liked it
A retelling of the Aeneid from the point of view of an oracle accompanying the voyage. I don't recall the main character from the Aeneid at all, though admittedly it's been a long time since I read that. Whether she appears there or not, she fits the story here very well. I liked how the author re-intrepreted the story, using her own imagination, but still grounding it in what's actually known about "historical" Troy. I found myself quite willing to accept what I was reading as a something of an ...more
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
A retelling of The Aeneid, this book tells the story of a daughter of Troy who becomes Pythia in Greece and ends up traveling with the remnants of her people, including Aeneas, to found a new homeland.

What I liked best about this book is Gull's journey as a priestess, and her experiences with the Mysteries. The author has a good understanding of ritual, and of the place of the gods in the lives of ancient people. They're not just myths concocted to explain the world around them, they're real fo
In the tradition of Mary Renault's Theseus books (The Bull from the Sea and The King Must Die), Naomi Mitchison' Spring Queen, Corn King and Mika Waltari's The Egyptian and The Etruscan, this one is a lyrical "mythic" historical fiction novel about Aeneas and the survivors of the Trojan War.

I loved it, read it in two sittings and I will read the next boo by Ms. Graham, Hand of Isis, pub. 03/09, asap.

Apr 28, 2017 rated it liked it
There's always a pile of books in the bedroom that my spouse has read and recommends that I pick up. As her tastes run more toward pulp than mine, every so often that pile gets too big and I have to declare book bankruptcy, off to the bookshelf they go. But she doesn't recommend books lightly, and this was a solid suggestion.

Black Ships is a historic re-imagining of the Aeneid, the tale of how the Trojans emigrated from the ruins of Troy to found what became Rome. I relied on the endpapers for t
4.5 Stars! I'm really sad to see this world go, and a full review will follow tomorrow!

Edit: Took a bit longer than expected, but I finally have time to review this book, and I really enjoyed it. Black Ships is a retelling of the Aeneid, told from the perspective of Gull, the daughter of a Trojan woman enslaved in the first sacking of the city, who grows up to become Pythia, the priestess/handmaiden for the Lady of the Death, aka Persephone. When black ships, lead by Aeneas after the second sack
Maura Gerrans-Ortiz
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Black Ships is a beautiful and enthralling retelling of the Aeneid. Told from the viewpoint of the daughter of one of the women kidnapped from Troy by Agamemnon's Greeks, author Jo Graham preserves the mythical and epic elements of the tale as a woman's experience.

Highly recommend this book for lovers of history, fantasy, and fans of Mary Stewart, Naomi Novik, Susanna Clarke, and similar.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Aeneid retold, made more real, better related to the era.
The daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, Gull is an oracle, the voice for the Lady of the Dead. When nine black ships appear, captained by Aeneas, the last Trojan prince, Gull joins her mother's people on their flight from Greek enemies and their attempt to find a new land to call home. Black Ships follows the journey of the Aeneid, but revised: with careful historical revisions, a cast of incredibly real characters, and skillfully interwoven religion, it is the personal story about the f ...more
Reading (and translating) the Aeneid was one of the highlights of my high-school Latin classes, but somehow I was never able to warm up to Aeneas, perhaps because of how he treated Dido. Even at that early (and for me, somewhat unenlightened!) age, I was completely sympathetic to Dido’s side of things; she showered love and affection on Aeneas, and he said that he loved her too, and then it was all “nope, have to go found this mystical city off in the wilds of Latium, sorry!” Thanks to that epis ...more
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a beautifully written book!

My first foray into The Aeneid was when I had to translate it from the Latin in my Advanced Placement Latin class in high school. I still have my edition with notes strewn all over the pages. I think this is the first historical fiction book that I have encountered that deals with Aeneas and his quest to find a new land for his people. And what a great retelling of the story!

No wait. Scratch that. I had read Lavinia when it had first came out. So ok, this book is
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jo Graham’s debut novel arose out of a long-time interest in Ancient History. She also loves the old stories, including The Aeneid. Her knowledge of history made her realise that Aeneas could not possibly have founded Carthage because that city did not exist at the time of the Trojan Wars, when The Aeneid is set. So she re-wrote the classic tale, focussing on characters fleshed out from mere mentions in the original and giving the story an Egyptian twist. Black Ships is the result.

Graham has giv
I had fairly high hopes for this book, but I was kind of let down. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't for me.

I found myself getting annoyed a lot as I was reading. Here's the thing: I'm not usually a fan of love triangles, but sometimes they can add some interest to the book. As often as they annoy me, I find myself wanting to continue reading so I can see how it turns out. With this book, that wasn't the case. I'm not even completely sure if it was a love triangle, it was so confusing. At times I wou
Jul 14, 2008 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this story very much. I just grabbed it at the library on my way out the door. Recently, that has resulted in me getting stuck with several books that I haven't finished because they have a stupid obsession with sharing titilating details of the characters' sex lives instead of telling a good story. This story, obviously, wasn't like that or I wouldn't have finished it either.

Instead, the plot was intriguing. To be honest, I knew little about this time period in history. While it's cle
Samantha Sorour
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-love
This is honestly probably one of the best books I have had the privilege of reading. The book was beautiffully written and has some of my favourite quotes in. Jo Graham has managed to create a world completely unique in a time period that has been thoroughly used. As a character Gull is so completely real and honest and wise beyond her years that it is truly wonderful to see her growth through out the novel. Black Ships managed to make me cry and laugh and sit on the edge of my seat the entire t ...more
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own, fantasy
I absolutely love Greek mythology, especially anything to do with the Trojan War (which is all kinds of fitting since my name is Paris and it is because of Paris of Troy that the name is in the baby name book). This book is an interesting first person account of the events chronicled in Virgil’s The Aeneid. The narrator is Gull, a young oracle who grew up among the enemy when her mother was taken during the first raiding of Troy.

I have always found Aeneas to be a very interesting person as his
Carol March
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Black Ships, Graham's debut novel, is a retelling of the story of the Aeneid from the point of view of Gull, daughter of a slave from Troy, who finds refuge in mainland Greece and becomes an oracle of the Lady of the Dead.

When the black ships come to Pylos, captained by an exiled prince from Troy, seeking the remnants of the people who were scatted when Troy fell, Gull, then only seventeen, must decide what her fate will be. She goes with the exiled Trojans and begins an adventure that takes he
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Goodreads Librari...: Black Ships by Jo Wyrick 3 35 Apr 08, 2013 07:25AM  

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Other books in the series

Numinous World (6 books)
  • Stealing Fire (Numinous World, #2)
  • Hand of Isis (Numinous World, #3)
  • The General's Mistress (Numinous World, #4)
  • The Emperor's Agent (Numinous World, #5)
  • The Marshal's Lover (Numinous World, #6)
“I want to know everything. I want to know how the clouds move and why islands fall into the sea. I want to know how to plant almond trees and how to make children grow up straight and healthy. I want to know how princes should govern and why people love. I want to understand the stars in the heavens and all the words that were ever made. I want to remember every story that was ever told.” 9 likes
“How shall I raise dead men up to plow fields that are fallow? How shall I plant young olive trees?”

Mikel smiled, and it was a beautiful smile. “One tree at a time,” He said.”
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