Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: The Lost Sisterhood

The Lost Sisterhood tells the story of Diana, a young and aspiring--but somewhat aimless--professor at Oxford. Her fascination with the history of the Amazons, the legendary warrior women of ancient Greece, is deeply connected with her own family's history; her grandmother in particular. When Diana is invited to consult on an archeological excavation, she quickly realizes that here, finally, may be the proof that the Amazons were real.

The Amazons' "true" story--and Diana's history--is threaded along with this modern day hunt. This historical back-story focuses on a group of women, and more specifically on two sisters, whose fight to survive takes us through ancient Athens and to Troy, where the novel reinvents our perspective on the famous Trojan War.

The Lost Sisterhood features another group of iconic, legendary characters, another grand adventure--you'll see in these pages that Fortier understands the kind of audience she has built with Juliet, but also she's delivering a fresh new story to keep that audience coming back for more.

Amazons. Oh my Amazons. I fully admit my fascination stems from that long ago viewing of the TV movie "Hercules and the Amazon Women". And having enjoyed Fortier's other novel, JULIET, I was eager to embark on this adventure through the past and present.

Told against two time periods--the life of Myrina, an Amazon "Queen" and Diana, an oxford lecturer on Amazons--THE LOST SISTERHOOD is more then just about the fabled warrior women, its also about shedding light on the truths of our own lives. Diana is motivated by memories of her grandmother, who claimed to be an Amazon and who disappeared when Diana was very young. Who were the Amazons? Did they still exist? Between myth, history and time what was the truth of the Amazon Nation?

Diana's story is nothing short of an Indiana Jones' adventure at times. Mysterious benefactor offering to whisk her away to validate all her dreams for a large sum of money. Threats and attacks from shadowy operatives. Tantalizing clues that may just be what she needs to find the truth. Jumping country to country, ancient historical site to ancient historical site in dusty caverns and tunnels. Dodging bullets, fake names, unexpected romance--truly this will lend itself well to a movie adaptation.

Myrina's story is no less eventful, but its a story of survival and freedom. As Diana is tracking Myrina's procession in the present, we follow her in the past and see just how hellish it was. Far from being a tribe of women who could defeat armies with their bare hands, Myrina's Sisters begin the book being sheltered Priestesses wanting only one thing--to avenge the wrong done to their Temple and get back their taken Sisters. The allies they gain, their victories and tragedies, are chronicled without an eye for future glory. They merely wanted a place to call their own, far from the greed and violence of men.

I was engrossed in both stories, but I found myself eagerly turning each page for more of Myrina's story. Fortier explains in her Author Notes that she took liberties with the legends and lore surrounding the Amazons, but she paints a realistic picture of the ancient world. Readers and writers know that stories are biased. Whether written by the victors to make their sacking of a temple seem to be righteous or by the victims to paint themselves as innocents who did nothing wrong, history is all about personal bias.

During Myrina's journeys she comes across many familiar mythological folks--Achilles, King Priam, Agamemnon, Helena, Paris, Hercules, Hippolyta...all very familiar to those with even a passing knowledge of Greek myths. Whether these figures were villains or heroes was in the eyes of the beholder and for Myrina they were more often trouble then anything else. King Priam who's petty dispute with Agamemnon laid the foundations for war. Achilles and his men carelessly raiding town after town with little care for their "barbaric" culture. Helena who's spitefulness ignited the tinder for a war. Paris who's well meaning intentions and bravado led death to their doors.

This isn't to say that Myrina's sisters were not at fault--they made their own mistakes and had to pay their own consequences as time went on.  Its a long while before Myrina is able to admit that sometimes mistakes happen even under the best of situations.

Diana's journey meanwhile echoed Myrina's quite a bit. She too was on a journey that quickly became motivated not by external needs, but my internals ones. She needed to see the quest to its end and along the way she too learned the importance between freedom, enslavement and what being an Amazon really meant. Its about choices in the end, something that Myrina's sisters fought hard for and something that Diana's grandmother wanted for her to know.