rating: 3 of 5 stars
At first when I started reading Hand of Isis I was thrilled that it read so much like Jo Graham's first book Black of Ships, which I loved. However, soon the similarity in voice began to distract me.
Who's head was I in? Sybil's from Black Ships? Or Charmian's from Hand of Isis? There was very little, outside of lifestyle and circumstance, to distinguish between these two characters.
I'm at a loss for what to say exactly about the voice because I love it, but I thought Charmian should stand out more from Sybil and be more herself. That being said, I love Graham's voice and am feeling conflicted, lol.
Hand of Isis tells the story of Charmian, handmaiden and half-sister to the great Cleopatra. Cleopatra has forever been an icon of the past and I found the subject matter and the crystalline way Graham wrote about her to be fascinating.
Graham wrote Hand of Isis in that beautiful lyrical way that won my heart in Black Ships and told about a time long past as though she really had been there.
Next to the voice of the main character, the only other thing that disturbed me about this book were the rather graphic sex scenes. There were only a couple throughout the entire book, but they were powerful enough to leave me feeling disappointed that I had read them. I hadn't expected them and kept thinking that they would soon be over or that something important would come of it. In the end, I just wish I'd turned the page.
I think what was most troubling about the sex scenes was the nature of them--they were not romance in the traditional sense, but dealt with the abuse of power and the alternate lifestyle choices that were the norm in early Greece, Rome and Egypt. Homosexuality and Bisexuality were acceptable practices at that time and so they were a part of Charmian's life. I just wish I hadn't read about them. I wish there had been a warning sign "avert your eyes!" before I came to those parts. I think the story would have been just fine without them--less is more, I think in this case.
So, overall, I'd say I'm a wee bit disappointed with this, Jo Graham's second book. While it was rich in beauty and imagination, it lacked in originality from her first book and in decorum.
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