Helen of Sparta is in many ways a typical young girl: she dislikes learning the boring carding and spinning that all women are expected to learn. She wishes she could do all the things that her brave, warrior brothers do. And although still very young, she is beginning to feel the stirrings of womanhood with a combination of fascination, fear, and awe.
What she does not realize until her mother finally decides it is time to tell her is that she—not either of her brothers—is the heir to the Spartan throne, which always descends through the female line. Although she has a twin sister, it was Helen who first saw light.
With prescience and sensitivity, Helen’s mother turns a blind eye when Helen sneaks off to train in the arts of war with her brothers, and gives her more freedom than her younger twin sister Clytemnestra, who is soon to be married to a prince from Mykenae.
Friesner’s spirited imagining of the beautiful Helen’s youth is full of adventure and many realistic touches that bring to life the times of the ancient Greeks. From her ability to situate the gods and goddesses in the doings of everyday life, to her thoughtfully realized characters as seen through the eyes of someone who is still technically a child, the reader is drawn quickly into and through this excellent young adult novel.
In true Greek narrative fashion, though, it ends at a beginning—with the promise that a sequel is on the way. I, for one, cannot wait to see what happens next to young Helen. Ages 12 and up.