Series: Nobody's Princess #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on April 24, 2007
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Young Adult
Helena of Sparta/Troy doesn't want to be known as the "pretty" one anymore. Determined to have some say in her fate, Helena sneaks away to learn how to fight with a sword and hunt with a bow.
My thoughts: This was a wonderful YA book. Set in classical Greece, Helena’s story plays around with other Greek myths. I found this particularly interesting as I had read/studied most of the myths mentioned throughout the story in a Classical Mythology class I had my last semester of college.
One thing that I found slightly bothersome was that as certain events, parts of classical myths and legends, occurred in the plot, the story suggests that they are falsely represented as soon as they have happened. While there can be more than one perspective on an event, I doubt that right away there would be such an extension of the truth. For example, how can witnesses at the riot say that Meleager killed his own uncles if they were well known to be dead years beforehand? While I like the idea that mythology exists the moment after it occurred, I didn’t think that it was necessary to suggest that all myths were exaggerated versions of the truth. However, besides this slightly bothersome detail. I did enjoy reading and experiencing Classical Greece in a younger fictional format. And it was interesting, at points, to explore the idea of rumors and gloating informing myth, especially when considering the Oracle at Delphi. The Pythia was super interesting because she brought some sense of reality to how prophecy’s were viewed during this time (but again, I’m not sure how skeptical the general population was of prophecies– the author has given the characters some of today’s views on these kinds of scams).
The most enjoyable part of the book for me was getting to see Helena (and even Clytemnestra, especially if you have read the Oresteia) grow up. The innocence they both have as children is heartening, and even though Clytemnestra is a pain, you can see how she became the woman she is in the Oresteia. This portrayal makes her seem more human. Even Helena is sometimes depicted in other literature as being evil or selfish, but Nobody’s Princess goes against that interpretation of her. This Helena wants to be more than just a pretty face. She doesn’t think that she should be treated differently than her siblings. She is always seeking to show the world what she’s got, and she is intent on learning as much as she can. Helena goes against tradition by sneaking out to learn how to fight with spears and swords alongside her brothers, but when her mother catches her, she doesn’t make her stop. Instead, she helps Helena by teaching her to hunt. Helena is sort of like Tamora Pierce’s Alanna from the Song of the Lioness quartet, but she has to deal with becoming queen one day. Unlike Alanna, she is treated like a princess but that doesn’t diminish her ability to be a kick-ass female (so maybe she is more like Queen Thayet).
Additionally, the ending was a bit of a let down because I didn’t feel like the plot ever got to a big climax. However, it did set you up for the next book and left the reader anxious to see how Helena’s next adventure goes.
Bottom Line: A nice quick read that leaves you wanting a bit more. But that’s okay because there is more to come. You can’t go wrong with a kickass female who is discovering what she wants from life. Anyone who appreciates classical mythology or just retellings of myths/history/legend/fairytales will enjoy this book.
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges: