I’ve been having some fun with the myth retellings this summer but even so this one about Helen of Troy and her sister Clytemnestra was a nice surprise. Mainly because you think you know a story fairly well and the author actually does some new things with it.
I’m pretty sure he’s the worst in any retelling. Maybe he’s just the biggest asshole in the whole Troy mess.
Agamemnon might be the worst period but I actually wound up appreciating Menelaus which is a first. He doesn’t usually get a lot of time in the stories I’ve read in the past as anything other than the cuckolded husband so it’s nice to see his relationship with Helen more explored.
One of the things I liked most about Daughters of Sparta was the use (or lack thereof) of the Gods. The Zeus as Helen’s father myth is there but alluding to covering up darker things which I think gave the novel even more of an air of realism.
The book is also heavy on the youth and early parts of both sisters marriages and does kind of speed through Troy yet if you do know the story do you need more of Troy? It was nice to explore the sisters bond and also Leda’s relationship with both her daughters.
There’s also a heavy element of childbirth and motherhood in Daughters of Sparta- not just with Leda but with Helen’s reaction to her near death after giving birth (and how that effects her marriage especially) and Clytemnestra’s love for her children and her powerlessness which of course culminates with the sacrifice of her beloved eldest daughter.
While it’s nice to see Helen and Clytemnestra remain in the forefront since Troy goes by so fast a lot of those famous women get short shrift. And I wish we could have seen more of Leda since she looms so large especially over Helen although even though her smaller part still works. Helen respects the women of Troy and knows exactly why she’s shunned and while both her mother and daughter remain enigma’s to her it still works in story.
Overall Daughters of Sparta is a good read and not a bad choice for a beach read either. It’s a famous story but changes and tweaks enough to still be engaging and gives us to realistic portrayals of Helen and Clytemnestra.