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Friday, May 22, 2015

Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

Title:  Helen of Sparta

Author: Amalia Carosella
Publisher: 1st April 2015 by Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: historical fiction, Greek mythology, romance
My Rating:  four crowns

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.

My thoughts:

This was a really enjoyable read. There are not many people who have not heard of Helen of Troy -  ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’ – but this story goes right back, long before Troy and Paris and that is what makes it unique. One of the things that set this book apart from so many others concerning this topic is that it comes from Helen’s point of view! Quite the twist on the often male dominated perspectives. You’ll like her, I am sure.

The author seamlessly winds together a riveting tale, combining the famous mythology with a fresh pair of female eyes as we trace Helen’s early years and the adventurous journey she embarks on. So instead of this often passively portrayed woman, we see develop a girl to a woman: one who assumes strong principles, great depth but also one who is flawed and very human. Helen is not a stand-alone; there are many primary and secondary characters that will quickly have you taking sides. I must confess on a personal level, it was refreshing to have a strong, mature and wise male lead in Theseus:

“ I am your servant….even if I cannot bring you to Athens openly as my wife, I will see you made safe. You have my word”.

This tale has it all! Adventure, romance and of course as we well know, tragedy. However, presented in such a refreshing context, it’s as if one is reading new material for the first time - surely a sign of a serious author. For as Carosella states:

“I wanted to give Helen the opportunity for something better – a chance to take her life into her own hands. After more than twenty-five hundred years of texts in which she’s been pushed round by men and gods, I think she’s earned it”.

Where does it lose some points? The highly contentious ending – wow - lots of thoughts on this one from reviewers far and wide. Without giving anything away, suffice to say I found it abrupt. Yes, it can be viewed as a complete novel where enough closure was had for one to reach your own conclusions. However, there is plenty of room for a sequel. Simply put, I was caught out by the abrupt final page and – even though to go on would be into territory many are familiar with – I stormed off to Facebook to shout my indignation, for I had not seen it coming. Truthfully speaking, perhaps all that was left would be a heartbreaking conclusion:

“And perhaps that was the truth of it all. Perhaps this war, this destruction, this death, (was) all mine.”

This book is fast paced and you will find it difficult to put down - the plot is captivating, the characters intriguing. Give yourself leave and immerse yourself in these times long gone. Spend some time with what I would like to consider is the ‘real’ Helen of Sparta.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.


Mystica said...

This sounds good. I am a history fan!

Elizabeth B said...

I like that it is from Helen's pov and does not portray her as the passive item controlled first by her family and then Paris.