I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier
Published by Ballantine Books on March 11th 2014
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The Lost Sisterhood is the new novel from the author of Juliet, an Oprah's Book Club Pick published in 30 countries which has been picked up by Universal to be made into a feature film. 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.
I’ll be honest with you guys, when I started writing this review, I wasn’t entirely sure what my final verdict on The Lost Sisterhood would be. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but there were a handful things I wasn’t sold on and I couldn’t make up my mind how much they affected my overall feelings. So, like any responsible reviewer of things, I decided to wing it and see if writing out my thoughts would help me to make up my mind. Fantastic news, it did!
The Lost Sisterhood starts slow, no other way to say it. Granted, it’s long, so it has plenty of room to take its time getting off the ground. I wasn’t bored, exactly, but I was able to put it down and walk away without feeling too angsty over the decision for the first 20% or so. After some leisurely exposition, the plot picks up and while I never really felt desperate to know what happened next (with one massive exception) I definitely found myself wrapped up in the mystery and enjoying myself.
Told in a dual timeline, the modern half (from here on out known as plot A) is a sort of Da Vinci Code-esque puzzle-quest, (I’m not saying this is a bad thing or that this is a knock-off, but there were similarities and fans of Dan Brown’s work might want to keep an eye on this one). Diana, plot A’s MC, is a philologist (someone who studies language in written historical sources, thanks Wikipedia) with a burning desire to uncover the secrets of the legendary Amazons and prove their existence to the world. Cue mysterious stranger with an even more mysterious photo and Diana is off! Bouncing around exotic corners of the leftover remains of the ancient world and unraveling the story behind the Amazons’ rise and fall.
Where this story really picks up is when the plot B kicks in.
(Interjecting on my own review (I can do that, I make the rules here), before we get into plot B, let me lay down a disclaimer: I am completely unqualified to comment on the historical accuracy of anything in the Bronze Age bits of this book. While I did go through a brief obsession with Ancient Greece, my focus was far more mythological than legendary. Wikipedia confirms that a woman named Myrina was considered to be a queen of the Amazons, but in all honesty, Anne Fortier could have entirely made her up and I wouldn’t have known the difference. If you are the kind of reader that gets really hung up on historical accuracy and you have a passion for this period, I suggest you consult an expert before making any decisions on whether or not this book is for you.)
Ugh, I am so rude. Anyway, back to The Lost Sisterhood. The thing that I love about historical fiction is the way it fills in the blanks between the lines of your history textbooks. The bonus of doing this with ancient history, is the gaps you can fill in are exponentially bigger. As my less-mannered self mentioned, I can’t tell you what parts of the story are or aren’t possible given what we know of the time, Fortier picked just enough major, recognizable names and events to give her theoretical backstory some legitimacy.
Everything having to do with Myrina was hands-down my favorite. I loved her character, I felt her pain and dear god did I ship her ship. Myrina starts the book an unfortunate victim of superstition gone too far and sets off on a quest for survival that goes farther and turns far more epic than she ever intentioned.
(Me again, I loved the way Myrina’s and Diana’s character arcs mirrored each other. Both were regular women who unexpectedly got thrown into situations that were grander and higher stakes than anything either one could have dreamed up for themselves. Both dealt with their respective situations by digging in and focusing on their goals. Apparently that sort of stubborn, survivalist determination is the fastest way to get me to root for a character.)
OMG, BUTT OUT MEG. Where was I? I don’t know. Ships! Let’s talk ships. This book comes with two! Myrina’s ship, as mentioned above, was fantastic. Myrina isn’t the kind of girl who’s looking to fall in love. She swore a vow of everlasting chastity to her moon goddess and when she meets her love interest has zero intention of breaking it. However, things happen and said love interest wiggled his way into Myrina’s heart and mine. I don’t want to give away too much, but I found myself feeling more feels than I expected this book to give me. I laughed, I cried, I anxiety-chewed my thumbnail into a jagged mess, I cried some more. Fortier really stepped up her game with the emotional manipulation on this one.
Unfortunately it seems like she used up all of her juice on the first ship because Diana’s? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, Diana and Nick have their moments, especially in the beginning. It’s an old trope, but the’ slightly repressed but secretly feisty(ish) academic meets mysterious, dangerous, loner guy’ motif is a winner for a reason. They had the kind of flinty, sparks-flying clash of wills that leaves you on the edge of your seat all ‘Omg, they are so going to hook up. When are they going to hook up? Just hook up already the tension is killing me!’ Sounds good, right? The problem is….they did. Suddenly it’s all ‘my goddess’ this and ‘I’ve found what I’ve been looking for my whole life’ that and Nick became so corny I cringed myself into a back cramp. Goodbye established character development, this wolf has been tamed.
(One more sidebar, I will give Diana’s ship credit for birthing the phrase ‘I was more than ready to straddle the apocalypse’ as a euphemism for wanting sexy times. I died laughing, it was so unexpected given the tone of the writing up until that point.)
Thanks Meg, I’ll forgive this interruption as it reminds me, the writing? Not my favorite. Fortier has this slow, heavy style that, while evocative, comes across a little awkward at times. Like history, I’m not a pro at languaging, so I can’t use highly technical terms to tell you what exactly I take issue with, but the sentences felt weighted and would occasionally veer into clunky. Maybe it’s a side effect of reading so much YA where sentence structure tends to be simpler, giving everything a more immediate feeling, I don’t know.
Overall, I give The Lost Sisterhood a thumbs up. Maybe not a jumping around, squealing with glee thumbs up, but definitely a thumbs up, perhaps accompanied by some kind of slow, thoughtful nod.
If you like historical fiction and/or have a passing interest in Ancient Greece and the Amazons, it’s worth checking out.