Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

laviniaOut beyond that, on the dim sea I saw ships — a line of great, black ships, coming up from the south and wheeling and heading in to the river mouth. On each side of the ship a long rank of oars lifted and beat like the beat of wings in the twilight.

I crouched by the waterside in the salty mud. The first ship entered the river and came past me, dark above me, moving steadily to the heavy soft beat of the oars. The faces of the oarsmen were shadowed but a man stood up against the sky on the high stern of the ship, gazing ahead.

His face is stern yet unguarded; he is looking ahead into the darkness, praying. I know who he is.
I went to the king and said, “A great fleet of warships went up the river at dawn, father. He looked at me; his face was sad. “So soon,” was all he said.

The story of Aeneas is a mythology of Rome. It was written (and largely made up) by the poet Virgil, to honour the Emperor Augustus. In it, a Trojan prince escapes the war of his homeland and eventually finds his way to Italy, where he founds a city, destined to become the greatest of the classical age. However, the poet barely mentions Aeneas’s Italian wife, Lavinia. She isn’t very well described, and she doesn’t speak once. In Lavinia, she is given back her voice, in order to tell her own story.

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Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

redemptioninindigo“She alone can safely wield the power that I shall take from our … former colleague.” The last two words rode on the breath of a regretful sigh.
“Will you really? I mean, to involve a human! Are you certain?”
“I am certain that Paama can wield it, and I am equally certain that he must not. Isn’t that enough?”
Another pause, then, “He is going to be very angry. He will try his utmost to get it back.”
The reply held a subtle glimmer of a smile. “That is indeed my hope.”

Paama’s husband is an embarrassment — an insatiable glutton who will do anything for more food. And Paama is a brilliant cook! Although you would think this a perfect combination, his greed became unbearable and she left him two years ago. Now he arrives at her village to persuade her to return home with him, but while he is staying with her family, his greed leads him to murder their livestock and ruin their crops. Paama’s adept handling of these crises draw the attention of the Djombi, the undying ones, who present her with a gift — the Chaos stick — a magic object with immense power. However, another djombi, with Indigo skin, believes that the stick is his and will do anything to get it, and his powers, back.

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The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

I bought my copy of The Gospel of Loki (with its frankly gorgeous cover!) during our bookshop crawl last year.

imageLoki, that’s me. Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s as least as true as the official version and, dare I say it, more entertaining. So far, history, such as it is, has case me in a rather unflattering role. Now it’s my turn to take the stage.

In the Norse cycle of myths, Loki is the baddie. He’s a trickster god, usually out to cause trouble, make fun of the other gods, or get them killed. He’s not supposed to be the one you sympathise with. But this is Loki’s version of events, and it turns out that,. as usual, there are two sides to every story…

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The King Must Die by Mary Renault

image“Horses go blindly to the sacrifice; but the gods give knowledge to men. When the King was dedicated, he knew his moira. In three years, or seven, or nine, or whenever the custom was, his term would end and the god would call him. And he went consenting, else he was no king, and power would not fall on him to lead the people. When they came to choose among the Royal Kin, this was his sign, that he chose short life with glory, and to walk with the god, rather than live long, unknown like the stall-fed ox. And the custom changes, Theseus, but this token never. Remember, even if you do not understand.”
I wanted to say I understood him. But I was silent.

Theseus grows up the son of a priestess and the grandson of a king, believing he is the son of Poseidon. Only when he is sixteen does he learn the truth — that he is the son and only heir of the King of Athens. He sets out to claim his birthright, but he has barely been in Athens for a year before the ships come from Crete to claim their tribute — seven boys and seven girls to be sacrificed to the cult of bull-worship. Theseus is one of them, and must use all his cunning to ensure he and his companions survive.

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The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson

This is our 100th post!

imageI’m born from song and prayer. A small life, never begun, lends me its unused vitality. I’m born from mourning and sorrow and three women’s tearful voices. I’m born from countless journeys chained tight in the bellies of ships. Born from hope vibrant and hope destroyed. Born of bitter experience. Born of wishing for better. I’m born.

Three women, from different times and in different places, pray to the goddess Lasirèn, a goddess of love. Their prayers call her to life, and she answers each of them, staying with them throughout their lives. All three women are of African descent, trapped in slavery of some sort far away from their homeland, and the Salt Roads of the title refer to the connection these women have to their African heritage.

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

We’re starting year two at Strange Charm with a new seasonal theme each. I’m focusing on mythology, a subject I’ve been obsessed with ever since I was a child (and a sort of companion series to last year’s fairytale season), and Rachel will be choosing examples of books that are self-published or from indie publishers. As always, please let us know if you have any suggestions for books that fit our themes!

  My eye catches on a light head among dozens of dark, tousled crowns. I lean forward to see. Hair lit like honey in the sun, and within it, glints of gold — the circlet of a prince.
He is shorter than the others, and still plump with childhood in a way they are not. His hair is long, and tied back with leather; it burns against the dark, bare skin of his back. His face, when he turns, is serious as a man’s.
When the priest strikes the ground, he slips past the thickened bodies of the older boys. He moves easily, his heels flashing pink as licking tongues. He wins.
My own father watches with envy. He turns to me.
“That is what a son should be.”

Patroclus is a gauche, shy prince, and an embarrassment to his warrior father. So when he is exiled to the court of Peleus and his godlike son Achilles, he hides in the shadows, trying not to draw attention to himself. But gradually, despite their completely different backgrounds and personalities, the two princes become friends. Together, they learn how to fight in wars and how to heal the sick, and their friendship blossoms into love, despite the disapproval of Achilles’ vengeful goddess mother. But then the Trojan war arrives, and Achilles is oath-bound to join the armies, and Patroclus, unable to bear their parting, follows him to Troy.

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