Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (March 25, 2008)
Esther Friesner takes us back in time to ancient Greece to tell the tale of a young girl who later grew up to become Helen of Troy.
"Even if I was pretty, it wasn't going to be enough to bring me the life I wanted: one where I was free to make choices that mattered, one where people listened to what I had to say.
Aphrodite had the beauty; Zeus had the thunderbolts. Everyone loved Aphrodite, but everyone listened to Zeus.
I'd never get my hands on a thunderbolt, so if I wanted to be free, I'd better find a way to get my hands on the next best thing: a sword."
What I liked
- That Helen is portrayed as a strong independent girl. Her portrayal in this book too me is more like what a Spartan Princess would be. Not some helpless little bimbo or a conniving temptress as she gets portrayed time and time again in Hollywood and most literature. In this book she is strong minded and strong willed, smart, independent, and trying to buck the shackles that tie her to her duty, while at the same time trying to honor the traditions she lives by.
- The other strong women portrayed in this book. Friesner has some really wonderful women characters who guide the young Helen from childhood to her teenage years. Shaping her views on the world. There is the nanny Ionne who is loving but firm; her mother who is Queen, politician, wife, healer, and huntress; Atalanta a fellow princess to another Greek King and has followed the path of the warrior; The Delphi Oracle who while having the “gift” is the ultimate diplomat, who is fun and knowledgeable on the world beyond her years. All of these women were believable in their roles and provided many life lessons to the young Helen.
- “Real World” explanations for the mythology aspects of Helen’s story. Helen’s own story is that she is the daughter of the mighty Zeus, but this book dismisses that as just a story. Like wise Friesner over and over discounts most of the “stories” as being just that stories. One character commented that “being told that the hero had killed a swamp snake, even a big swamp snake, is no where near as impressive as killing a three headed hydra”. While the Gods are not totally dismissed, they do not play such a pivotal role other then worshiping them.
- It was a quick, brain candy read.
- I loved the period it was set in which was the Greek “Age of Heores”. It touches on several mythological stories such as Jason and the Argonauts.
- It was quite light and fluffy. Perhaps this is because there is very little “known” about a young Helen before she became Helen of Troy. Or maybe because it is a Young Adult book. I am not sure why, but it was not as meaty as I would have expected.
- The modern world references irked me. While I understand for narrative purposes it probably made sense to use modern terms and ideas, but it still bugged me. At one point a character said a phrase that was essentially “she used to change your diaper” which was odd to me. The author actually used the word Diaper. While I am no expert or historian, I am pretty confident that babies in ancient Greece probably didn’t have diapers as we know them, and certainly wouldn't have used that word. This was only a minor irritant anyway.
- The “history” skipped over an important fact. That at approximately 12 Helen was kidnapped by a prince. There is a scene towards the end of the book, where the prince Theseus tried to kidnap her on the street, but this by no means was not a proper kidnap as described by history.
OverallI think this book is a wonderful introduction to the story of Helen of Troy and the historical period of “The Age of Heroes”. Teenage girls will probably enjoy this book the best as it would resonate with them (rebelling against authority and adults, going on adventures, and competing with men at their level). Not sure if I will read the next book or not while the book was enjoyable it didn't make we want to rush out and pick up the next book. But if you are looking for something fun and easy to read this will fit the bill.