Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.
A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.
I was drawn to this book because I loved the idea of Helen of Sparta, not Helen of Troy. What a brilliant idea to tell the story of who Helen was before Paris entered the picture.
Helen of Sparta is very well written, offering a fascinating glimpse into Spartan society. I hadn't been expecting to get so much of Theseus, and I was pleasantly surprised at his relationship with Helen and the strength of his character throughout the story. He's a dreamboat. There's a good cast of supporting characters too, including Helen's brothers, Pollux and Castor, Pirithous, King of the Lapiths and Theseus's best friend, and there's even an encounter with a young and then-unknown Paris. Even Menelaus comes off as sympathetic in the beginning before his desire for Helen and the power he believes is his due twists him into an unrecognizable version of Helen's childhood friend.
I hoped this book would give me a new view of Helen, of a Helen that was not just a prize or a pawn or nothing but a pretty face. And it does, though I can't say that I was totally enamored of her. She has a bit of a tough go of it. Her mother, Leda, despises her as the daughter of rape at the hands of Zeus, and Zeus has never made his presence known in Helen's life, something she is pretty bitter about. Suffice it to say she has some major daddy issues! Sometimes she was truly strong, brave, and smart, but other times she was incredibly obstinate. I get being pissed off at the gods, but after they've already proven how miserable they can make your life, as well as what they can do to your loved ones, to be willfully rude and disrespectful is just not a smart thing to do, and Helen ends up bringing a lot of heartache on herself. But her flaws make her more believable, and the reader can't help but root for her.
Though I found the pacing to be a bit slow at times, an exciting sequence of events leads up to the conclusion, but then it ends just as the beginning of the story we all know kicks into gear. I was surprised at the abrupt ending just as Helen's life was about to be forever changed, and I anxiously scoured the internet looking for news of a sequel, but I couldn't find any. I'm familiar with the basic story of Helen's departure with Paris and the war that follows, but I was hoping to get it from Helen's point of view in Amalia Carosella's capable hands. Plus I don't know what happens to Helen after Troy falls, and I was really hoping to find out. So if there is not a sequel and that ending stands as is, then I am not completely satisfied, and I'm going to bump my rating down a notch. But I'm crossing my fingers for that sequel!
**Update: There is a sequel! Yay!!! My four-star rating stands, and I am looking forward to the continuation of Helen's story :)
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
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