The Lost Sisterhood
In her debut novel, JULIET, Anne Fortier entertainingly explored the history behind Shakespeare's inspiration for his famous tragic heroine. Now, in her follow-up, she revisits the history and myth behind more famous women --- the Amazons of ancient Greek legend.
Diana Morgan is an ambitious young lecturer in philology at Oxford University, eager to establish herself in her research and teaching career. She is an accomplished scholar, but her real passion inevitably threatens to undermine her academic reputation. Ever since childhood, Diana has been intrigued --- some might say obsessed --- by the legendary race of Amazons. She knows as well as anyone that most researchers discount the existence of the warriorlike tribe of women, but that doesn't mean she needs to stop believing.
"Fortier's boldly original take on [THE ILIAD], as well as her consideration of issues of artifact restitution and the ethics of archaeological research, will intrigue lovers of ancient worlds as well as those who are just fans of a good story."
After presenting a lecture, Diana is approached by a mysterious figure who offers to pay her to accompany him on a journey relevant to her interests in the Amazons. Soon Diana is enmeshed in an international quest for the truth about these figures, one that will take her around the world and also force her to deal with questions dating back to her childhood. Diana's eccentric grandmother claimed to have a special connection to the Amazons. Is it possible that the old woman's ravings actually contained real insights into this lost race of warrior women? As she travels through subterranean temples and the Minotaur's labyrinth, Diana is accompanied by the mysterious Nick --- a maddeningly annoying (but undeniably attractive) mercenary whose motives are more than a little unclear.
Diana's story is interspersed with the Bronze Age tale of a young woman named Myrina and her sister Lilli, hunters whose lives take a very different turn after they are shunned from their village because their mother is rumored to be a witch. Taken in by a group of priestesses, Myrina soon becomes a brave leader and an instrumental figure in the history of the Trojan War.
Diana's present-day travels parallel Myrina's own, and readers will enjoy tracing the many connections between the two stories. Myrina's story may send readers back to their copies of THE ILIAD to refresh their memories about a more canonical version of ancient Greek history. Fortier's boldly original take on this story, as well as her consideration of issues of artifact restitution and the ethics of archaeological research, will intrigue lovers of ancient worlds as well as those who are just fans of a good story. And, of course, there's the romance, which, although its direction is clearly broadcast from early on in the novel, is no less satisfying for that.
Some readers may roll their eyes at Fortier's "we are all Amazons" suggestion, but many others will respond wholeheartedly to this centuries-spanning feminist message.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 14, 2014