She is beautiful, she is a princess and Aphrodite is her favourite goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Unlike her prissy sister Clytemnestra she takes no pleasure in weaving and embroidery. And despite what her mother says, she is not even close to being interested in getting married. Instead she wants to do combat training with her older brothers, go on heroic adventures and be free to do what she wants and find out who she is.
Not one to count on the gods – or her looks – to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with determination and an attitude. And while it’s the attitude that makes Helen a few enemies (such as the self-proclaimed ‘son of Poseiden’ Theseus), it’s also what intruiges, charms and amuses those who become her friends, from the huntress Atalanta to the young priestess who is the oracle of Delphi.
In Nobody’s Princess, author Esther Friesner deftly weaves together history and myth as she takes a new look at the girl who will become Helen of Troy. the resulting story offers up humour, action and a fresh and engaging heroine you can’t help but root for.
I found this book when I went looking specifically for stories based in Ancient Greece, on a list somewhere that answered whatever version of ‘list of ancient greek fiction books’ I typed into Google at the time. I was working my way through ‘Mythos’ by Stephen Fry (still am actually) and building up to one of my ultimate reading goals; to read ‘The Illiad’ by Homer. As such I was in an Ancient Greek craze when this little gem found it’s way to me.
I read the majority of this book in the unusual sunshine we enjoyed earlier this year in the UK – I took myself out, slathered myself in sun cream, sipped on cool lemonade and assisted by this book tricked myself into believing I was right there in Greece.
It was enjoyable enough that on finishing the book I immediately sent off for the next book. It was real enough to immerse you in the story, written casually enough that it didn’t require any concentration to keep up with and original enough that it was absolutely a new story – knowing the story of Helen Of Troy gives you just enough that you’re fairly sure she survives to adulthood but other than that Friesner has made a character so uniquely hers that knowing the legend does not help you to know this version of Helen of Sparta.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a casual read, especially anyone who thinks ‘I don’t read’, or wants an introductory book to the Ancient Greek setting. It doesn’t overwhelm you with setting the scene/ world building, and gives you a manageable amount of background to diffferent gods/ goddesses, as well as being good fun to read. I really enjoyed it and have passed it on to a good friend of mine on the insistance that she too will love it.
Book Review: Nobody’s Prize by Esther Friesner
Destined to become a beauty, raised to be a queen, young Helen of Sparta refuses to be left behind when her older brothers enlist in the quest for the Golden Fleece – why should boys get to have all of the fun? Accompanied by her friend, the ex-slave Milo, and disguised as a boy herself, Helen sets out to join the crew of heroes aboard the fabled ship the Argo.
Helen soon faces all sorts of danger and intruige. She must use her wits to avoid her brothers detection, even as a devastatingly handsome boy catches her eye and brash, boisterous Herecles falls in love with her boy-self. In persuit of the Fleece, Helen faces warrior women, deadly prophecies and a terrifying murderous princess. Not to mention the start of her period…
With her beauty blossoming, Helens journey takes her beyond the mythology of the Golden Fleece, across the seas of the ancient world to Athens, where her very future as Queen of Sparta is threatened.
Replete with the charecters of myth and interwoven with timeless coming-of-age experiences, this rousing sequel to ‘Nobody’s Princess’ is award winning author Esther Friesner’s thrilling, thoughful and fresh reimagining of the girlhood of the legend known as Helen of Troy.
I found that I actually enjoyed this book even more than the first one, and the story has stayed with me really quite clearly months after having finished it. I liked the way they wove her into the story of the Golden Fleece and how the tale plays out around her.
She’s a spunky enjoyable charecter, a little frustrating at times, but then this is a YA historical fiction – she’s meant to have a bit of character development going on. I chose to write the two books together because I find that my conclusion for this book is the same as it’s predecessor. It’s a lovely sunshine read, very easy reading and adds a little fun to the day – Definitely recommended.
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