A priestess of Hekate with no use for kings, Medea must depend on them and other men for her survival, to her frustration and fury. While ambitious, Jason still needs constant prodding to fulfill the destiny Medea creates for him by means of sorcery, cunning, and blood.
The Argo’s sea voyage from Colchis to Jason’s homeland of Iolcus feels overly drawn out, yet it allows for multiple opportunities to rework the traditional mythos in inventive ways—which often involve the characters indulging in their atavistic natures. The setting has an otherworldly feel at times, which heightens the sense of the tale’s ancientness.
Sensual and violent, often simultaneously, Vann’s novel evokes the primal force of women’s power.
Bright Air Black is published this month by Black Cat (the trade paperback imprint of the independent press Grove Atlantic; $16, 250pp). I reviewed it for Booklist, and the review was published in Booklist Online on February 3rd.
- It's hard to tell from the image above, but the cover shows a ship with a full crew of oarsmen plying their way through dark waves, as seen from above.
- If you haven't yet gotten the impression that this novel will be a challenging read due to the subject matter, let me repeat that. It is poetically written, though, so I found myself simultaneously admiring the prose and recoiling from the imagery in some scenes. I haven't read Vann's other novels but, from reviews, I understand that this is typical of his style.
- The novel's set in the 13th century BC, and the author has made a good effort to re-create the atmosphere of that long-ago time.
- Would I recommend it? If you're a literary fiction reader up for something daring and different (and you have a strong stomach), then by all means give it a try.