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Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

Monday, March 9, 2015

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
As I've said a few times on this blog, I enjoy reading these reinterpretations of Greek myths, so when I was browsing Netgalley and saw Helen of Sparta I just had to request it. I'm glad to report I was not disappointed and I really liked Helen of Sparta. I tend to have set reading times - the commute and bedtime - and rarely break habit but I actually sat down and finished this book last Saturday afternoon.

"I will be your father figure ..." I could not stop this song from playing over and over in my head whilst reading this book. Sometimes it was hard to believe or appreciate the Helen and Theseus romance due to the huge age gap. Yes, it was a different time and yes, Theseus didn't look his age but I still found the song creeping into my mind. I appreciate Amalia Carosella's ageing of the younger characters so that it wasn't really creepy but it was still...awkward. At times. However, certainly not awkward enough to stop me reading because as I said before, I raced through this book!

All of the characters were well written and I liked that the gods and godesses turned up now and then - it's always more fun that way. I loved the showcase of interesting women in a time that didn't necessarily appreciate women. We had Aethra who was as good a mother-in-law as you could ever want and also a high priestess who commanded respect. Then there was Helen's mother, Leda, who was still smarting from her encounters with Zeus (quite rightly?!) and unfortunately she took this out on Helen. There has to be a villainess but I liked the fact Amalia Carosella let us know the reasoning behind Leda's spitefulness. We also get to meet Athena briefly, which is always a treat. Finally, there's Helen and I definitely think Amalia Carosella achieved her goal of showing Helen as more than just 'the face that launched a thousand ships'. I sympathised with her greatly.

Helen of Sparta was well written - an easy read (considering the enormity of tackling this myth ) without being too simplistic. I'm no expert in Greek mythology or classical civilisation but it is obvious Amalia Carosella knows her stuff. There were some good action scenes and this book was certainly more than just a romance. However, it took a while to get used to the switching back and forth from first person to third person. Personally, I think it would have been just as effective if it had all been in the third person but the first person wasn't distracting. I read a lot of YA, which is often written in the first person, so it didn't bother me too much.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I really, really hope a sequel is in the works given the ending! If you like Greek mythology, retellings, or May-December romances (!) I would highly recommend Helen of Sparta.

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