Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Strong girls. There's nothing better.

Look at that cover. What does it say to you? Me, I was expecting something along the lines of Robin Hood. There's a forest, and a chick with a dagger. Ignore the fact that she's actually wearing toga-like togs... I was distracted by the dagger. Either way, I totally wanted to read it.

In fact, we've got a tale of Helen. Before she's that Helen. She's Helen of Sparta, heir to the Spartan throne and she's young, rebellious and doesn't ever want anyone to think her only worth in life is to be beautiful. She's Nobody's Princess. Secretly, she starts to train for warfare with her older brothers (matriarchal society! matriarchal society!). She's very young and self-centered when we first meet her, but she quickly learns better and becomes moderately adept at recognizing the tension, emotion and politics around her.

Helen is swept from city to city, adventure to adventure much like Odysseus. She first goes to comfort her sister as Clytemnestra is sent to politically dangerous Mykenae for marriage. Then it's on to Calydon for a tragic giant boar-hunt, and finally to the famed Oracle at Delphi. Staple characters are sprinkled liberally, but appropriately. The gods are treated appropriately as the religion of the time, but do not actually appear or take any role in the events, unlike most books of this variety.

I would have liked her to spend more time in Mykenae. There was a ton of potential conflict and adventure there. As it was, I felt that skipping from place to place was relying a little to heavily on the changing setting and the dynamics and characters that go along with that. I wanted to spend more time with just one cast of characters. I think we would have ended up with a richer story for it. Perhaps the conflicts avoided will come back in ensuing installments, but as it stands, I think this one was a little attention-deficit to be truly stand-out. Not that it won't be loved. I already know one person who will be cursing me for starting her on another unfinished series. hehe.

By the way, in 9th grade Honors English we did a section on Mythology where we studied the ubiquitous Odyssey. We also studied Edith Hamilton's Mythology. For the record, I arbitrarily chose Theseus as my favorite hero. I think I must have missed something because after Esther Friesner's treatment, I see him as a big, arrogant bully. You're a jerk Theseus. I'm changing allegiances. Maybe to the far more popular Jason, of Argonaut fame whom, I suspect, will figure largely in the next installment, Nobody's Prize due out April 2008.

Give to fans of Tamora Pierce, Megan Whalen Turner, Adele Geras, Bloody Jack, Rowan Hood and Robin McKinley. And you know, probably girl fans of The Ranger's Apprentice, too. Good company, yes?


Kimberly/lectitans said...

Haven't read this, though it's on my list big time what with me being a Latin teacher and all, but you may want to rethink you choice of Jason as favorite hero. He gave Medea a pretty rough treatment.

I'd recommend Perseus.

Erin said...

I enjoyed this quite a bit. Not outstanding by any means, but I will definitely pick up the sequel.