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Helen of Sparta

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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.

The sequel to Helen of Sparta will be published by Lake Union Publishing in May 2016.

416 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 2015

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About the author

Amalia Carosella

9 books319 followers
Amalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). For more information, visit her blog at www.amaliacarosella.com.

She also writes myth-steeped fantasy and paranormal romance under the name Amalia Dillin. Learn more about her other works at www.amaliadillin.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 464 reviews
Profile Image for Emma.
975 reviews975 followers
May 3, 2016
I've never been a fan of Helen, she's the Kim Kardashian of the ancient world. Who would really want to be the most beautiful woman in the world anyway? To drive men so crazy with your looks that they are driven to madness and desperation, wanting to touch you and possess you regardless of your feelings or permission. Not my cup of tea. Carosella brilliantly expounds on this part of the myth, this Helen feels the burden of her beauty and the constraints it puts upon her choices. It's the first time I'd ever thought of her as more than a trophy. She has some agency here. This aspect, more than anything, is what usually draws me to certain women of Greek myth: Clytemnestra, Medea, Phaedra, Hecuba; these women act. Usually for ill, of course, and maybe that says something about me. They turn their tragedy into other people's, but at least they have the power to change things. In this book, Helen tries to escape her fate and Carosella makes you hope for her, despite the futility of it.
Profile Image for Melinda.
1,020 reviews
July 12, 2016
Carosella adds to my lifelong fascination with Greek mythology. As you read of Helen, her presence comes to life as do other mythological figureheads included in the narrative, you find yourself asking if these gods and goddesses, legends are nonfiction or fiction, did any exist. Carosella invents such a provoking narrative along with a captivating mythological character with such conviction causing all probability.

Well researched, no doubt Carosella is knowledgable in Greek mythology. Her vivid portrayal of Helen as well as other characters is spellbinding. Helen’s story is intriguing and enthralling, a neophyte mythological reader will be taken instantly, advanced fans will enjoy the journey, regardless, your level of interest expands as Helen’s tale progresses, other characters introduced (Apollo, Aphrodite, Poseidon and Aegeus, Theseus along with many others).

Carosella creates a read full of adventure, romance, strength, tragedy and bravery as the three dimensional characters snare you from the beginning, you will turn the pages with quickness, as you find yourself immersed in ancient times.
March 10, 2015
I've always had a place for the women of the Trojan War--Leda, Helen, Andromache, Cassandra, Clytemnestra, Electra--and have always thought both myth and modern fiction haven't done these women fair justice. Especially Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships, has come down through the ages as both pawn of a bunch of Olympian gods who tended to behave worse than mortals and a prize for a dilletante prince at the expense of his family and his country.

Finally, here's Helen's own story and she's no one's pawn nor prize. This is a woman willing to defy the gods themselves not just for her own happiness, but to avert a war that she has foreseen will come. Though her twin sister Clytemnestra doesn't fair well here, mostly due to being compared endlessly to Helen, but I found myself sympathetic to her plight. Eben Leda's horrible behavior towards her daughter Helen is one of a woman forced to live with the product of a rape (even if it was by a damn swan). Agamemnon is still his boorish self (and frankly I've never mourned his death at the hands of his wife and cousin). Theseus actually comes off rather noble, if too noble for his own good. Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention there will be a second part of the book, a cliffhanger if you will. Yet I didn't feel cheated because the tale was well-written and Helen no simpering miss. Also a trigger warning for rape. Though not gratuitous, still a heads-up is in order.

Seriously, the only decent Olympian is Hephaestus and he's not even in the narrative. Hera has always annoyed me because she's always blaming the women rather than putting Zeus on lockdown. Athena's not too bad though.
Profile Image for Kate.
Author 10 books31 followers
March 7, 2015
I received this book through the Kindle First program, and I will say straight off the bat that only one single thing kept me from rating it five stars:

What I did love: the storytelling itself was nearly flawless, I give the author kudos for making a well-known mythological tale (or really, how well known IS it??) her very own, with no apologies. She took it and created her own world around a character, and I loved it.

Yes, there were some stretches here and there for the purpose of entertainment but, again, the author owned it and so I had no problem with this. She somehow made it not only realistic but also matter-of-fact that the gods of Olympus did come to earth occasionally and meddle at their whim (Helen's sardonic thoughts about her mother's rape by a swan had me laughing out loud), sometimes even to demanding the death of innocents.

I did feel I lost touch emotionally a bit with Helen during , that was a LOT for her (and us) to deal with, and maybe a little more time could have been spent making us feel her grief along with her. The back-and-forth POV was a little jarring at times, but it didn't throw me out completely like so many narratives that employ it do.

I'll confess I did devour the entire book in a day and a half, but I didn't catch any editing or painful grammatical errors (THANK YOU to her beta and editor!) for which I was grateful.

In reference to my spoiler above, I'll just say this to the author: you have stunning talent. I loved your book. Trust yourself to sell an entire story on its own merit, lots of them, because this one convinced me you could, and will.

(As a heads-up to readers, my Kindle Fire booted me out of the book and into the OKAY TIME TO RATE AND MAYBE BUY SOME RELATED BOOKS! as soon as the Acknowledgements came up. The author thoughtfully included several appendices after this which history/mythology lovers such as myself will appreciate, make sure you hop back in to check them out!)

Crossposted on Twintypebooks blog.
Profile Image for Emma.
1,102 reviews81 followers
March 3, 2015
I received this book free from Kindle First.

Ummmm, WHAT?! I knew the entire time I was reading this book (which was basically nonstop from the moment I got it) that I was going to give it five stars. Historical fiction, well-written romance, Greek mythology, Sparta. All my favs, all in one place! It is paced wonderfully, not too fast and not too slow. It has emotional moments that make your heart ache, your stomach turn, and make you smile like a goof.

Then, for all the closure the "ending" of this book had, it may as well have ended mid-sentence. It just ended! Just kablam, done, finito, the end, nothing else to say, roll credits. WHAT?!

Maybe this warrants a re-read because what the hell? I must have missed something.

Anyway, I loved it until it ended in the middle of no where, for what that's worth.
Profile Image for Historical Fiction.
920 reviews589 followers
April 2, 2015
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I suppose it's only right to confess that I've never liked Helen of Troy. I'm not sure why, but as a character she's never interested me so it should come as no surprise that content was not a huge factor in my decision to read Amalia Carosella's Helen of Sparta. To be honest, my interest in the book was sparked by author Stephanie Thornton. Weeks before Helen of Sparta was available, Thornton made her enthusiasm for the book known via Facebook. For one reason or another, the glowing remark lodged itself in my memory and ultimately motivated my procurement of Carosella's debut.

Lucky for me, Thornton's assessment was spot on. Carosella put my skepticism to rest in only a few pages and I quickly found her work all but impossible to put down. Her depiction of Helen has a fire and intensity I'd never seen attempted, but the way she balanced that drive against soft emotions and feminine gentility brought a fascinating degree of depth to Zeus and Leda's daughter.

I was equally intrigued by Carosella's decision to begin Helen's story long before Paris laid eyes on her famed beauty. In shifting focus to Helen's association with Theseus, Carosella brought Helen's history into perspective and challenged readers view her character in a wonderfully refreshing context.

Carosella's depiction of Theseus was also very dynamic and I was deeply impressed with how his relationship with Helen was handled over the course of the story. He is much older than his leading lady and far more experienced in both love and politics. There is a maturity about him that contrasts Helen's youth and that really appealed to me.

The book is character heavy and I'll admit Carosella covers a lot of mythological material, but I was never overwhelmed by her presentation and was quite pleased with how she brought the various elements of the story together. I thought the book very well-researched and appreciated how the narrative complimented both familiar and lesser known Greek legends.

Helen of Sparta is an ambitious novel and I understand that many may find its length intimidating, but I found the book nothing short of brilliant and would easily recommend it alongside Bradley's The Firebrand and Fortier's The Lost Sisterhood.
Profile Image for Katie.
522 reviews421 followers
April 10, 2020
Oooo I beta'ed this one a few years ago, and it's SOLID. Amalia really knows her mythology (and her history), and that comes through very clearly. I loved reading about Helen's journey.

Also umm...Theseus. There's lots of wonderful Theseus. Be prepared for swoons, folks.
Profile Image for Robin.
314 reviews13 followers
March 9, 2017
Review also at Historical Readings & Reviews
ACR through NetGalley, my opinions are my own.

In Greek mythology, before the infamous Trojan War, Helen of Sparta was abducted by Theseus, King of Athens. Based in legend, this novel approaches Helen's 'abduction' with a new take on it, with Helen as a willing participant.

First, I think it should be noted that in my opinion, this is more like historical fantasy than straight up historical fiction. While it's not being marketed that way, there's several usages of magical or mystical powers, and actual Greek gods and goddesses play large roles in the storyline. Not as the characters' belief system, but as the gods and goddesses making actual appearances and interacting with the mortal characters. While that in itself didn't bother me, I felt as though there was too much being explained away by these influences, rather than by providing the characters with good reasons for their choices.

I really wanted to like this tale of the face that launched a thousand ships, because it focused on a less infamous period of Helen's life and I thought it would allow for more character development and let us get to know Helen and other characters and what would motivate their later choices. While it is well written with good descriptions, unfortunately, the characters are rather flat and there were too many times when I felt like their behavior or decisions just didn't make any sense. For example, Helen is worried that Menelaus will rape her and then she'll be forced to marry him - this part didn't bother me since it's true in history that a violated woman would be forced to marry her rapist to save her "honor". What troubled me was that if Helen was so desperate to escape marrying Menelaus, and so prepared to run away with Theseus, why not just claim Theseus raped her (or better yet, sleep with him and then claim it was rape) so then they would be "forced" to marry? As escape plans go, wouldn't this be a lot easier than an elaborate plan to slip away in the night, hid her on his ship, and then come up with a fake identity once in Athens? I understand the whole premise of the story is a twist on Helen's abduction so she needed some reason to run away with Theseus, but if you can't explain why the characters didn't chose a different, more logical, seemingly easier route, the whole concept falls apart.

I also struggled to understand why a princess was so often alone, or wandering the palace unescorted especially when it was full of suitors lusting after her. More than once she is told off for it yet she keeps doing it, even after experiencing unwanted attention when caught out on her own. The one time she does attempt to avoid crossing the palace alone at night, instead of just finding someone to escort her back to her quarters, she stays with her guests until so late at night she is literally nodding off. She has maids and servants, and there's no reason she wouldn't have one with her to see her back to her room.

I could go on with more, greater examples of such illogical behavior but I don't wish to add spoilers. Suffice to say, there was too much in this that didn't make sense or felt contrived for the sake of the plot or scene.

On top of that, I did not find the characters inspiring. Theseus has little depth and serves only as protector, while Helen defines the role of damsel in distress. Though it took guts to abandon and leave behind her whole world, she spends half the time in fearful frets and collapsing into Theseus's arms.

The biggest criticism I'm seeing from other reviews is that the ending is something of a cliffhanger, that it ends too suddenly without closure. I did not feel this to be the case because if you are familiar with the legend of the Trojan War and Helen's story, you know what comes next. The ending was supposed to show the reader why Helen later makes the fateful choice she does, igniting the Trojan War, which it does do. Perhaps it wasn't wise for the author to write a novel that, in the end, only suited people who are already familiar with Helen's story, but that doesn't mean I would say the ending is poor.

So there's definitely some good elements to the story since I was compelled to see the story through to the end, and it's well written, but unfortunately the characters let it down.
Profile Image for RitaSkeeter.
693 reviews
June 18, 2017
We all know the story of Helen. Paris; Troy; War. This book starts before the more commonly recounted aspects of Helen's story, with the story starting in Sparta whilst her father is seeking a husband for her, and Helen's subsequent flight with Theseus.

The book seeks to give Helen a voice. To show who Helen was, rather than just as a pawn of men. The book didn't necessarily succeed in that for me. The Helen of this book still had her life revolve around men, and the decisions she made were all in pursuit or flight from different men. I know, I know, a sign of the times. But Helen could have been fleshed out, instead this book offered was that she was terrified of being married to Menelaus, and wanted to marry Theseus. Even within the confines of the time and the role of women in such, the reader could have been given greater insights into those times and of Helen within in, even if Helen had limited availability to change her fate.

Something I didn't like about the book; the involvement of the gods. Yes, I know a very important part of Greek mythology however I had thought this book would be historical, but rather it is a blend of historical with mythological/fantastical elements. Likely most won't mind that, it just isn't quite what I was expecting.

Something I liked about the book was that it did present a different time period in Helen's life than that which we commonly see.

Two hot tips for reading this book:
1. I bought the book before Goodreads added the 'series' feature to a book page. This book ends on a cliffhanger, so be aware it is not standalone as I had thought.

2. If not familiar with Greek mythology or of the people mentioned, it would be worth doing some quick reading up before starting the book as it dives straight in with little explanation. This is excellent for people who are well familiar as the story doesn't stall with exposition, but it may leave those unfamiliar floundering a little. A note for Kindle readers: there is a list of characters and places right at the back.
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews474 followers
July 8, 2020
I have read so many Trojan War books in recent years. The market seems to be saturated with them. The law of averages being what it is, of course most of them are mediocre, which has resulted in my growing fatigue with the whole setting. Does Amalia Carosella’s vision of Helen impress? Yes and no.

Carosella puts a fresh spin on events across multiple levels. I was already familiar with the tale of Helen’s abduction by Theseus, but it is often framed as an abominable act, perpetrated by a lecherous old man on a pre-pubescent girl. Carosella herself mentions this in the author’s note, as well as her need to age Helen up in order to make her scenario work – what if this episode was not unwilling, but a mutual romance? Theseus is, after all, a hero and a demi-god and the cruel abduction of Helen can arguably be said to be out of character (though really it depends on what version of Theseus’ myths you ascribe to). And, remarkably, Carosella makes the pairing work. Okay, I’m not going to pretend it’s my One True Ship or anything. But I was onboard. I liked it, it worked, and it was a breath of fresh sea air.

That leads me into the second twist – Helen in this series has prophetic vision. On the one hand, it may seem unfair to take a trait that is traditionally given to Cassandra, the Trojan princess, and give it to Helen. It is quite a big departure. But I would argue in favour of it. Because the myth cycle of the Trojan War is so well-known, not just among historians but even the general public, there are very few surprises left for an audience in retelling the tale. We know exactly how events will spin out. Characters and events drudge inexorably to their fate, the same one we’ve read about and watched a hundred times before. Giving Helen prophetic vision shakes all that up. Suddenly this character is not marching to the beat of the same drum, but fighting to avert this fate, and a huge dose of tension is injected into the story as we root for her to break free and give us a new ending unlike the one we’ve always seen. It bursts the inevitability of that ending wide open and takes readers back to a place where they don’t know what the ending is. It also gives Helen a very good motivation for wanting to go with Theseus.

I knew this book was the first in a series, so I knew the story would probably cover events of Helen’s youth, before her departure with Paris, but I didn’t realise that the episode with Theseus would take up the entire book. Carosella really committed to this storyline, giving it depth and complexity. It was so involved, in fact, that as I entered the latter stages of the novel I actually wondered if Carosella had done something breathtakingly marvellous – alternate history… er, alternate mythology. Is that a thing? That should be a thing. I think I may have just invented a thing. How exciting would it be, I thought, if Carosella had decided to run with this Helen/Theseus pairing and take the Trojan War completely off the rails. All the excitement and conflict arising from Helen’s curse/gift, playing out in entirely new and unexpected ways, in new locations with new characters and a new ending? Who survives, who dies, no way to know? Yes, please! Sign me up to read that whole book series.

As to the rest… the writing itself felt polished and well-crafted. It was a smooth read that I took pleasure from. However, it didn’t quite make it for me into the upper echelons. It would’ve had to have been far more innovative and creative for me to rate it that elusive fifth star. The story was clever – it wasn’t earth-shattering. I actually thought that both Helen and Theseus were the main characters, but I realised that is why Carosella switches between first person and third person. Her stated aim was to give Helen her own voice, hence why Helen’s chapters are in first person, but as much as this book is half Theseus’ story, it is not intended to be a space for his voice. Thus, his chapters are always told in third person, allowing Helen’s voice to remain the sole speaker throughout, but to give us as readers knowledge of events outside of Helen’s experience and fair airing of Theseus’ part in events. Essentially, the book has its cake and eats it too, providing a first person narrative in Helen’s voice without trapping the writing into a corner whenever she is not present at key events or failing to give due credit to this book’s other major character, Theseus.

8 out of 10
Profile Image for Ashley.
246 reviews21 followers
July 17, 2015
"Men did not claim to be children of gods unless they had the height to prove their words."

This is the second historical retelling I have read and I was not let down, if anything it made me want to read more historical retellings, especially Greek ones!
I would definitely read some Egyptian ones or something too though!

This book follows the story of Helen, who was also a revolving topic in the other book I read (The Song of Achilles ). I was so excited to read a book from her point of view! Especially because history is told from the males perspective, it's rare to see a women telling the story!

In this story, she is living a life in Sparta with a mother who hates her, and her two brothers who treat her with respect.
Her childhood friend comes back from war as a changed man, one who has grown and with it craves things. Craves things he didn't before.
A year later, everyone from near and far is invited to come and compete in a game for the gods for Helen's hand and she ends up falling in love with Theseus of Athens.
When something unimaginable and unforgivable unfolds she begs Theseus to take her away. to give her a life of safety, but also one where she feels safe to love and be loved.

"I am a princess of Sparta and a daughter of Zeus. I belong to Sparta, not to you! And if you do not care for Sparta's future, I will never allow you to rule as it's king. I will never be yours."

Like I said, Helen is our protagonist in this story and the narrator for majority of it.
She suffers from horrible nightmares that almost always come true, unless she intervenes and only then it is a watered-down form, her mother hates her, she isn't on the Gods good side, etc.
She's had a tough go, but things finally appear to be turning around for her when Theseus comes to win her hand.
Her life takes on more twists and risks, but she has to be strong with this new chance she has been given and hopes she makes the right decisions.

Everything had a purpose, he supposed, and if the labyrinth of his life had led him to Helen, he could hardly complain of the trials he had suffered along the way."

Theseus did not even plan to go to this game to win Helen, his best friend asked him to join him.
With all his luck with his past two wives and him still grieving for his last wife and late son, he doesn't need another woman on his plate, but as soon as he see's Helen he is transfixed.
He helps her escape from the torment and terror she faces at home and flee to a new one.
His city of Athens.
His home.
Where his family resides. the only one he has left.
But he is willing to risk it all. Risk it all to save Helen.

"“Am I so fascinating?”
“Always,” he said. “You are sunlight after the storm, clear and bright, leading me home.”

Together they flee to Athens.
She is to live out the rest of her days as an Egyptian Princess, named Meryet, so her family does not know where she is.
He is to rule his kingdom as if nothing is wrong.
But what happens if Helen's dreams come back and show inescapable doom? What happens if not only she is in danger, but everyone around her? What happens if the one thing that made her flee in the first place threatens again?

"Because I was a daughter of Zeus, and I would not be held against my will. Not by Menelaus, or Leda. Not by Tyndareus or my brothers. Not by the gods or the fates, with their burning city and their strange Trojan prince, and their war. Not even by my own father."

From the way this one ended, I think it's safe to assume there will be another one. I'm hoping there will be because I will not only be buying this one, but that one too.
This book and The Song of Achilles together make me want to try more Historical retellings, but scared they won't match the standards I have made after reading these!
Very well-written book. I could imagine everything that was happening too. Super fast-paced, I was never bored. Not too much imagery that I was flipping through wondering when it would end, I just let it go!
So so so well-done! I would be so eager to read this again, but I'll have to wait till I am able to buy it.

Profile Image for Ellis.
444 reviews232 followers
August 4, 2016
1) MASSIVE sibling feelings, though I do wish Clytamnestra had played a more prominent and nuanced role. The same goes for Penelope, so here's hoping that happens in the sequel.

2) Fuck the Atrides forever and ever and ever.

3) I like the spin Carosella put on the original mythology and the attention she paid to the presence of the gods in the mortals' lives, though I feel like she sometimes used all this to prop up Theseus' character, which is not my favourite thing in the world. The constant threats of rape and abuse women face in these households/this society made this book (and especially the first third) hard to read sometimes, but I also appreciate that Carosella didn't shy away from that or decided to romanticise ye olden Greek times instead.

4) LOVE how this book reinforced the idea that Agamemnon is the fucking worst (true) and Patroclus almost universally beloved by his peers (again, true imo and even though he only appeared for three sentences or so, I had Feelings).

5) Helen deserves eternal hugs and a lot less hate in general.


7) Leda and Thetis should hang out sometime and in that time Thetis should teach Leda how to actually care about your children while still preserving your urge to burn down the world. I did have to laugh when Helen revealed that Leda had dedicated the Spartan women's quarters to Hera though because see point 2) for my feelings towards Zeus as well.

8) I can't lie, the age difference freaked me out, even though Helen is technically an adult in this world. I mentally aged her up to her twenties.

Profile Image for Darcia Helle.
Author 30 books697 followers
March 15, 2015
In simplest terms, I loved everything about this book.

First, Carosella has a natural gift for storytelling. We're taken on a journey, the story unfolding like a flower, one layer at a time. We get to know the characters as we learn about their lives, their passions, their desires, and their secrets.

I don't think it's necessary to know anything about Greek mythology in order to enjoy this book. The author does an excellent job of including enough detail on the associated gods, goddesses, and myths to keep us rooted in the period, without getting caught up in specifics.

The plot is intricate and layered, without ever feeling overly complicated. We have mystery and suspense, romance, political intrigue, and family drama. Carosella has a firm grasp on this era in history. Her handling of setting is masterful.

Some reviewers have complained that the ending feels too abrupt. I wasn't particularly bothered by this. While the ending doesn't wrap everything up in a neat bow, and it does leave room for a sequel, I felt like we were given enough to reach our own conclusions.

I'm looking forward to many more journeys with Amalia Carosella.
Profile Image for Stephanie Thornton.
Author 10 books1,317 followers
March 30, 2015
We all know that Helen's face supposedly launched a thousand ships, but what happened before she ran off with Paris and started Homer's famously recorded Trojan War?

Amalia Carosella has taken the oft-repeated tale and turned it on its head in Helen of Sparta, interweaving well-known myths into a completely new take on the renowned beauty. Here we see a Helen who is determined to thwart the will of the gods, no matter the cost, and who unwittingly stumbles into a love story of her own, not with the nitwit Paris (who I've obviously never cared for), but instead for the epic hero Theseus. It's refreshing to see Helen not as the empty-headed home-wrecker (okay, country-wrecker) she's usually seen as, but instead a woman willing to sacrifice all for her people.

This is a fresh take on one of history's most famous stories, deftly told and intricately woven.
Profile Image for Taylor Tomassini.
27 reviews13 followers
December 12, 2016
..Only recently published, Carosella’s debut novel is a hidden gem. Greek mythology tells us that before Helen’s face “launched 1,000 ships” to Troy, she was stolen away from her home in Sparta by another handsome royal, Theseus, the King of Attica and son of the sea-god Poseidon. But what if she wasn’t kidnapped? What if she actually chose to leave her childhood home to not only pursue love, but to protect her people? That is the premise of Carosella’s Helen of Sparta.

When I was younger, I read a lot of Greek mythology and, at one point, considered myself an expert. I must regretfully concede that Carosella is a true scholar on the subject, however. Carosella’s novel taught me so much more than I expected. The entire time I read Helen of Sparta, I felt like I shared a secret with Carosella….

To read the full review, please visit The Book Wench:

Profile Image for Stefanie.
1,687 reviews60 followers
July 12, 2022
I really wanted to like this, but it's another one that was a great idea that fell flat. Gave up at 19%. Menelaus was a creepy attempted rapist and Helen and Pollux were too stupid to care about. If the heroine's only defining personality traits at 19% are "running around palace alone despite knowing that every man in the fucking castle wants to rape her" and "whining," I'm out.
Profile Image for M.
182 reviews24 followers
March 2, 2016

The characters, the language, the story, the portrayal of the gods- this book was everything I could have hoped for.

“I knew my duty to Sparta, to my people.”

“I don’t want to be beautiful,” I said once I’d caught my breath. “I don’t want any of this.”

Helen, Princess of Sparta, daughter of Zeus, has come of age to be married.
However, nightmares and premonitions of fire and ash speak to her of a message, of a war to come.

Over her.

Her acclaimed beauty is known to be something of both a curse and a gift, yet she thinks only of how she will protect her people at any cost.

“It was not even her beauty that captivated him, either, so much as her concern for her people, and the way she fished for wisdom rather than compliments. “If there is any hope she might love me, I cannot turn from her now.”

Theseus, Hero of Attica, son of Poseidon, King of Athens, is one of the few hundreds of men who turn up on Helen's birthday to look upon her beauty with his own eyes.

Though never was he looking for the love that he found.

Kind, respectful, and wise due to his years and experiences in battle serving the gods, Helen sees him as her answer to her prayers.

“Marry her, if you will. I will see you safely to Athens. But there will be a price that must be paid, and I can do nothing to stop it.”

However, Theseus has bad luck of his own, a history of pain and grief. A warning from the gods confirm his fears in going ahead with Helen, but he is as loyal to her as he is to Athena's city and he does what must be done, for her sake.

“Am I so fascinating?”

“Always,” he said. “You are sunlight after the storm, clear and bright, leading me home.”

After much planning and devising for the sake of peace, Helen is made into a queen, the Queen of Athens. Though warnings still stand, the frightful dreams becoming less and less frequent, she finds happiness like she never thought she would, with Theseus by her side. He is loving and supportive in everyway and their marriage is a good one.

Until the gods strike.

“He must find her. He must find. He must. Helen.”

Not once, but twice, Theseus finds himself trapped and deceived by the gods in this novel. They have taken so much from him, but deep in the Underworld he hears Helen's call, a tone of despair that he has never heard from her before while she was in his love and care . We are left wondering if they will ever see each other again.

“Perhaps Zeus was king, but I was Spartan, a princess twice over, and queen of Athens besides. I knew my duty. And I would rule my own fate.”

Not knowing whether Theseus will ever return, Helen is taken back to Sparta where she will face those who she once thought close to her. She is determined to stay faithful to Theseus but nothing is for sure.

“The dreams did not tie me to the future, but they gave me the opportunity to alter it. I saw it even in the small details that changed from nightmare to nightmare.”

Wow. This was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

Helen's character impressed me most. Her constant interest and effort in keeping things right whenever she felt she could, her bravery in the face of men, her bold and strong nature and her cleverness. As I have not read any more of Helen, all I can say is that this retelling of the myth portrays her in an admirable light. She suffers greatly for someone trying so hard, and lets not even mention Theseus...

But okay yeah we must...(I very much want to yes)

“Stay with me?”

His fingers wound into my hair, and his arm tightened around me. “Always.”

Theseus....can he be a book boyfriend? At 48?

I LOVE how this myth was twisted for this retelling. His history is explained in such a way that makes him out to be an honorable man which suited this plot. He was a gentleman in every way, treating not only Helen, but his people with humility and interest. A noble character in this novel, I felt for all that he had suffered at the hands of the gods he tried so hard to please. Like Helen, he is strong and he sees past her beauty, recognising a strength in her also. His loyalty in the end of the novel gets him into trouble.

“I cannot put my fate in their hands, Father. I cannot trust them.”

The gods. They were portrayed exactly how I always imagined they should have been, it took a while to get used to them in Percy Jackson. But here, they were powerful, unforgiving and very much active and a part of the story. I loved how real it seemed, how real the gods were at this time, it's something that grabbed me when I first glimpsed into Greek Mythology, and the way they were worshipped.

“I did not want to worship gods as cruel as this—gods cruel enough to rape my mother after she objected to being deceived, or willing to waste the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of men in a useless war. I did not want to believe we could not be free.”

A brilliant book, well thought out and relevant to the period setting from food to clothes to locations, I was immediately transported back in time and it was a pleasure to read Helen's story.

“More than half a year he had waited, and now he took her by the wrist, leading her from the hall as her husband. Nothing else mattered but that.”
Profile Image for Jenny Q.
1,001 reviews54 followers
March 28, 2016
I was drawn to this book because I loved the idea of Helen of Sparta, not Helen of Troy. What a brilliant idea to tell the story of who Helen was before Paris entered the picture.

Helen of Sparta is very well written, offering a fascinating glimpse into Spartan society. I hadn't been expecting to get so much of Theseus, and I was pleasantly surprised at his relationship with Helen and the strength of his character throughout the story. He's a dreamboat. There's a good cast of supporting characters too, including Helen's brothers, Pollux and Castor, Pirithous, King of the Lapiths and Theseus's best friend, and there's even an encounter with a young and then-unknown Paris. Even Menelaus comes off as sympathetic in the beginning before his desire for Helen and the power he believes is his due twists him into an unrecognizable version of Helen's childhood friend.

I hoped this book would give me a new view of Helen, of a Helen that was not just a prize or a pawn or a pretty face. And it does, though I can't say that I was totally enamored of her. She has a bit of a tough go of it. Her mother, Leda, despises her as the daughter of rape at the hands of Zeus, and Zeus has never made his presence known in Helen's life, something she is pretty bitter about. Suffice it to say she has some major daddy issues! Sometimes she was truly strong, brave, and smart, but other times she was incredibly obstinate. I get being pissed off at the gods, but after they've already proven how miserable they can make your life, as well as what they can do to your loved ones, to be willfully rude and disrespectful is just not a smart thing to do, and Helen ends up bringing a lot of heartache on herself. But her flaws make her more believable, and the reader can't help but root for her.

Though I found the pacing to be a bit slow at times, an exciting sequence of events leads up to the conclusion, but then it ends just as the beginning of the story we all know kicks into gear. I was surprised at the abrupt ending just as Helen's life was about to be forever changed, and I anxiously scoured the internet looking for news of a sequel, but I couldn't find any. I'm familiar with the basic story of Helen's departure with Paris and the war that follows, but I was hoping to get it from Helen's point of view in Amalia Carosella's capable hands. Plus I don't know what happens to Helen after Troy falls, and I was really hoping to find out. So if there is not a sequel and that ending stands as is, then I am not completely satisfied, and I'm going to bump my rating down a notch. But I'm crossing my fingers for that sequel!

**Update: There is a sequel! Yay!!! My four-star rating stands, and I am looking forward to the continuation of Helen's story :)
Profile Image for Judith Starkston.
Author 10 books120 followers
June 24, 2015
Carosella has brought to life an entirely new take on the Helen myth. She has embraced a Helen who takes control of her life and tries to defy fate (and the gods do their darndest, as usual in Greek mythology, to make her and everyone else miserable). In the process she has created an engaging novel. She richly develops the jealousies, passions and loyalties of her characters, as well as bringing the reader directly into the ancient Greek world. I enjoyed the sense of interconnectedness between different parts of this Greek and Mediterranean world that she develops, Troy, Sparta, Egypt, Mycenae, Athens—completely accurate and it adds depth to her portrayal of this exotic world. This is not the Helen Homer shows us, although he's a bit coy about Helen, so maybe he's just covering her tracks. I can appreciate a flexible view of all the legendary mythology of the ancient world, and Carosella has flexed some impressive muscle.
Profile Image for Emily.
84 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2015
The story of Helen of Sparta/Troy/Egypt is one of those amazing things about Greek Mythology. No two versions are the same, and no two Helens are the same.

This Helen starts long before the story usually starts (with Paris, and a trip to Troy). It shows you Helen as a child, as a young princess on the verge of womanhood, still the most beautiful female in the world, with all the ensuing problems. It's a subject that's particularly close to my heart, and though this is an entirely new version (to my eyes, at least) you cannot deny that Amalia does it some serious justice.

I'm not going to give anything away about the plot, because I don't like leaving spoilers in reviews, but suffice to say, it takes Helen on a fantastic journey, and you will love every second of it.

Now, just to wait for the (I am HOPING) sequel!
Profile Image for Karen.
411 reviews30 followers
April 25, 2015
This is an absorbing retelling by a talented writer. The characters of myth really come to life. While Helen at times made me want to shake her, Theseus is a leading man worthy of the title "hero" and the supporting characters were all well done. This did not feel like I was reading a fantasy but rather an account of real people who just happened to live at a time when gods played a bigger role.

The ending however is as frustrating as can be!
Profile Image for nikkia neil.
1,150 reviews19 followers
March 30, 2015
I've always loved mythology since I was a preteen with mumps and my mom bought me a book of mythology. This is the real deal. Not only is it fresh and well- written, but its got a author who is a scholar so its not a bodice-ripper. Its a adult book don't worry but a well written adult book.
Profile Image for Laura Mercer.
5 reviews2 followers
February 20, 2019
I loved this book. Moved along at a good pace. I looked forward to reading it every night.
Profile Image for Naomi Ruth.
1,583 reviews45 followers
September 26, 2017
I really enjoyed this book. Having read Plutarch's version of Theseus I really disliked the man and never thought I would actually fall in love with him as a character. Also, I have always been frustrated/disappointed with Helen as a character, so I loved this.

I was a bit unprepared for the sexual violence that occurs against Helen, which I supposed I should have been prepared for, considering her dreams, but I could see it being triggering for some people, so I would hesitate to recommend this to everybody. HOWEVER, it was a fabulous book, it really brought the bronze age alive. I always felt like I knew where I was and what it looked like, the characters are well developed, loved the inclusion of the gods (I want more Poseidon :P), just very happy over-all with this book and am so glad I ordered the second one, mwahaha...
Profile Image for Ashleigh.
8 reviews
July 9, 2017
Different take on Helen's story

I really enjoyed this new spin on the story of Helen (of Sparta, Troy). It took awhile for me to realize that this story wasn't playing out the way it had in Homer's retelling. I fell in love with Theseus. Looking forward to future installments!
Profile Image for Patty.
1,191 reviews32 followers
April 21, 2015
I love stories that take place in Ancient Times. I have a passing knowledge of the Greek myths; I know the basics of most of the more well known tales but must admit that Theseus was unknown to me. Whether I had just lost my knowledge of him or had plain just never heard of him I can’t tell you but I will admit to some googling in the course of reading Helen of Sparta (BTW – is it me or is the Helen of Troy page in Wikipedia way misogynistic? I know Helen was no brain surgeon but I don’t think she was that bad. The poor girl couldn’t help being born beautiful.)

As to this book – gah! I had the world’s worst time putting it down! It doesn’t deal with the usual story of Helen but rather it weaves a possibility of a what might have been of the time before Helen starts her march towards launching those 1,000 ships. In this story Helen is a young woman fighting her destiny and hoping to find a way to stop the war she sees coming in her nightmares. If she can only change the course of her life perhaps she can keep all of those men from dying and the horrors she dreams of visiting her.

Helen is the daughter of Zeus but denies the gods and this is probably her biggest flaw – living in a time when the gods and their fickle natures rule the world of the mortals it is foolish of her to ignore their existence and power. But this she does despite putting her faith in Theseus, the son of Poseidon, and King of Athens. He is loyal to his father and the patroness of his city, Athena.

I was drawn in from the very first pages by the characterization of Helen and all of the others that inhabit her world. Each one had dimension and intrigued me. The writing was fast paced and I kept turning the pages since I really didn’t know this aspect of Helen’s story. There is a fair amount of artistic license taken as is admitted in the author’s note but I like this Helen. My only issue was with the ending. It just ended with little or no fanfare. Unless this was the author’s intent since the rest of Helen’s story is that which is so well known. Or is a sequel planned? Since I am a touch confused perhaps the notation of another book or an epilogue was in order. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on a very old tale.

Profile Image for Elena.
1,021 reviews77 followers
May 10, 2017
Helen of Sparta is the first book in a duology about the myth of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, who was the cause of the Trojan war. In this first part, however, Amalia Carosella reimages a minor myth concerning Helen, which puts her in contact with Theseus, king of Athens.

Helen is not the most popular woman in Greek mythology, but in this novel Carosella does a great job at characterizing her and making her likeable. She skillfully represents the dangers of having such a power, and the pains of seeing men going mad for it. Furthermore, Helen has dreams which anticipate the Trojan war, and so she is determined to do everything, even defy the gods, to stop it from happening. I really admired her courage and her devotion to her people.

Helen's relationship with Theseus is the main focus of the book. To be honest, at first I was a little uncomfortable because there is a huge age difference between them (thirty or so years), but since it’s Greek mythology I was able to forget it after a while. I loved how attentive Theseus was to Helen, how he saw much more than her beauty and valued her opinions. They were very well suited for each other. In the second half of the novel their relationship felt too romantic at times, and I think more time should have been spent on Overall, however, I rooted for them and

While Helen and Theseus are the main players, the book also features other famous characters from Greek mythology, and many different myths are mentioned. This made the setting very fascinating, a successful mix of historical fiction and fantasy. It made me want to learn more about this intriguing world. In the future, I will definitely check out Carosella's take on Pirithous and Hippodamia's story.

I am very curious to see how the author will tackle the Trojan war in the second installment – even if part of me is dreading it…
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,303 reviews27 followers
April 18, 2015
Helen of Sparta carries a heavy weight on her shoulders. She is princess to Sparta, but also the daughter of Zeus. Helen is resented by her mother for how she was conceived; she is also bound to inherit the throne. Helen’s gifts from Zeus not only granted her beauty, but dreams that foresee the future. In a recurring nightmare, she envisions Sparta in flames and the death of her family when she is married to a childhood friend. Determined to escape her fate, Helen makes plans to escape to Athens with King Theseus, son of Poseidon. Finally feeling some freedom, the gods continue to punish Helen for her actions; however, Helen still continues to forge her own path.

Helen of Sparta offers a fresh take on Greek mythology and the Trojan War from Helen’s point of view. I loved the mix of historical fiction and mythology. I was captivated by Helen’s fiery spirit and determination right from the beginning and found myself immersed in her story. She does not play a damsel, but is the driver of her own destiny. Helen’s world is brought to light with the magic of the gods and the brutality of the history. Focusing on Helen’s life when she was younger, I got to know her character very well as she grew, as well as Theseus. Theseus is created in a heroic and sympathetic light. Overall, Helen's story is packed with great characters, a rollercoaster of emotions and an intense plot. With a rather abrupt ending, I am hoping to read more in the next book.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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