Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Release Day Review: The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

Title: The Lost Sisterhood
Author: Anne Fortier
Published: March 11, 2014 (TODAY) by Balantine Books
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Synopsis:  Oxford lecturer Diana Morgan is an expert on Greek mythology. Her obsession with the Amazons started in childhood when her eccentric grandmother claimed to be one herself—before vanishing without a trace. Diana’s colleagues shake their heads at her Amazon fixation. But then a mysterious, well-financed foundation makes Diana an offer she cannot refuse.

Traveling to North Africa, Diana teams up with Nick Barran, an enigmatic Middle Eastern guide, and begins deciphering an unusual inscription on the wall of a recently unearthed temple. There she discovers the name of the first Amazon queen, Myrina, who crossed the Mediterranean in a heroic attempt to liberate her kidnapped sisters from Greek pirates, only to become embroiled in the most famous conflict of the ancient world—the Trojan War. Taking their cue from the inscription, Diana and Nick set out to find the fabled treasure that Myrina and her Amazon sisters salvaged from the embattled city of Troy so long ago. Diana doesn’t know the nature of the treasure, but she does know that someone is shadowing her, and that Nick has a sinister agenda of his own. With danger lurking at every turn, and unsure of whom to trust, Diana finds herself on a daring and dangerous quest for truth that will forever change her world.

Sweeping from England to North Africa to Greece and the ruins of ancient Troy, and navigating between present and past, The Lost Sisterhood is a breathtaking, passionate adventure of two women on parallel journeys, separated by time, who must fight to keep the lives and legacy of the Amazons from being lost forever.

I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinion is not based on that fact.

I haven't read a historical mystery like this in awhile. I used to read them all the time but they got a little formulaic. After awhile it felt like the literary version of rom-com. Fun and fluffy but a predictable story. But this book made me remember why I love the genre so much.

There was a ton of mystery in this book. I was trying to piece together the clues that would lead to explaining the mythological connections between the actual Amazon's and the stories from antiquity that I am intimately familiar with. Anne Fortier does a great job of making those connections and surprising me with their reveals. The book almost felt like a creative retelling of The Iliad with lots of other classical mythology. It made me want to reread The Iliad which I have not done since college. I was also intrigued by the modern story and the mystery that was involved in hunting down the truth as well as who was trying to help the main character and who was trying to harm her. I spent a lot of the book developing elaborate theories and ideas to explain what was happening. That to me is the mark of a good mystery. It makes you think and speculate.
As usual in these kinds of books the two perspectives intertwined as Diana, a professor with an yearning to learn the truth about the Amazons, starts to find the facts. At the beginning I found myself much more interested in the story of the actual Amazons and not so much on the modern side of the story. Then about halfway through the book that changed and I was more interested in Diana's story. Throughout the whole book both plot lines had a lot of mystery.

The characters are complicated and interesting. Especially our two protagonists who are easy to relate to and root for. I loved Myrina, the ancient Amazon character. She was trying to find her way in the world and be happy even though she doesn't know what she wants a lot of the time and ends up making a lot of mistakes. I also liked that while she is a good fighter and hunter she is also nurturing, vulnerable, and concerned about others. As far as Diana's perspective I was much more compelled by the secondary characters. There was also a whole host of people that often made me questions their motivations and if they were on Diana's side or not.

The characters were however very indicative of this genre. There was the slightly insane older academic that provides important details that everyone previously discounted, the menacing corporation trying to use the findings and relics for their own personal gain, and our heroine's stoic mentor. Then of course there is the main character, a female academic pulled to an obscure topic in history because of some unlikely connection to the subject and a swarthy male adventurer who reluctantly helps our heroine and along the way sparks fly. My main criticism with the genre is the romance. There is always romance and while it is slow-burning it is always predictable. I will say this about the romance in The Lost Sisterhood, it wasn't that bad. I knew it was coming but I still enjoyed it. The men were swoonworthy and I shipped the ships.

My main piece of criticism is that it's very long. Long is okay if for the length of the book you are engaged and riveted by the story, but this was the kind of book that feels long. I spent a lot of the beginning of the book waiting for it to get interesting. It had a bit of a slow start but about two-thirds of the way through the action starts picking up and elements of the mystery started being revealed.While it is enjoyable it takes a while to get to the big payoff. It's the kind of book that is an investment. If you take the time and effort then you will enjoy it.

I give The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier 8 out of 10

I recommend The Lost Sisterhood to anyone who likes Historical Fiction, Mystery, or Both. I would also recommend it to fans of Greek Mythology and novels about adventure and exploration through history. This book felt like a more grown-up Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The book does an even better recommendation:

"I know it is not only crazy people who dream about the Amazons, but also people who love mystery and adventure"

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