Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Review: Black Ships by Jo Graham


Yesterday evening I finished Black Ships. I had been reading it in the bath, so I set the book aside and lay back, thinking about what had just ended. Guys, if you see this book on a bookstore’s shelf, buy it and read it and get lost in it; I did, and I now know that I’ve read a book that’ll always stay with me.


Let me quickly put this into perspective for you: I primarily read Epic Fantasy and Hard SF (many other genres inbetween but the two above are my great loves), and I had read David Anthony Durham’s Acacia before Black Ships; you see, since I had an idea what to expect from Jo’s book, I knew that I wasn’t going to be reading Epic Fantasy, so I didn’t expect anything like that from Black Ships.


But I also didn’t expect to be utterly mesmerized by the book! :-)


Black Ships is a beautiful read, absolutely and without doubt, beautiful! Jo’s economy and elegance with words completely pulls you in – she tells the story with exactly the right amount of detail, thereby painting her landscapes and characters in effortless strokes.


You never have one of the moments where you think, ‘Huh? What’s that?’ and then have to go back and re-read a section. You also never have to skip a section – Jo never bored me, and every word that slipped in through my eyes stayed there. There were never any words that seemed out of place or wrong, where as soon as you read them, you think, ‘Okay, I wouldn’t have used that word or so many words to explain that or this.’ and her narrative style is so easy on the eyes and brain that before you know it, you’ve finished the first 100 pages and it doesn’t matter that you missed your favourite TV show or that it’s half-past 3 in the morning; but don’t misunderstand me either – I could put this book down and go do something else, but the fact that I’m trying to articulate here is that Black Ships was always in my mind. I never stopped thinking about the book or the characters or the world that Jo Graham shows us.


Some books that I’ve read have pride of place above the others: Pet Sematary because I read it when I was nine years old; The Reality Dysfunction because I finished that 1000+ page book in less than a week (that’s how incredible the book is) and now Black Ships because of its beauty. :-)


This is one of the tiny minority of books that brought tears to my eyes, and I am proud to say that; I lived with Jo’s characters for two weeks and now that the journey is over, I am sad, there’s no doubting that. I’ll miss Gull and Xandros and Aeneas, their ancient world, and yes, I’ll even miss the Lady of the Dead. I’m purposefully not telling you what you can expect plotwise because 1) you can check out her own website for that and 2) I hope you discover this book the same way I did, read it for what it is and not for what you think it might be, and love it the same way I do. :-)


I give this 9/10 – it’s compelling, stunning, memorable, and beautiful. :-)


To order your copy of Black Ships, click here for US, here for UK and here for SA.



Black Ships is published in SA by Penguin Books SA.

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