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Nobody's Princess

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She is beautiful, she is a princess, and Aphrodite is her favorite goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Not one to count on the gods—or her looks—to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with steely determination and a sassy attitude. That same attitude makes Helen a few enemies—such as the self-proclaimed "son of Zeus" Theseus—but it also intrigues, charms, and amuses those who become her friends, from the famed huntress Atalanta to the young priestess who is the Oracle of Delphi.

In Nobody's Princess, author Esther Friesner deftly weaves together history and myth as she takes a new look at the girl who will become Helen of Troy. The resulting story offers up adventure, humor, and a fresh and engaging heroine you cannot help but root for.

296 pages, Hardcover

First published April 24, 2007

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About the author

Esther M. Friesner

259 books679 followers
Esther M. Friesner was educated at Vassar College, where she completed B.A's in both Spanish and Drama. She went to on to Yale University; within five years she was awarded an M.A. and Ph.D. in Spanish. She taught Spanish at Yale for a number of years before going on to become a full-time author of fantasy and science fiction. She has published twenty-seven novels so far; her most recent titles include Temping Fate from Penguin-Puffin and Nobody's Princess from Random House.

Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Aboriginal SF, Pulphouse Magazine, Amazing, and Fantasy Book, as well as in numerous anthologies. Her story, "Love's Eldritch Ichor," was featured in the 1990 World Fantasy Convention book.

Her first stint as an anthology editor was Alien Pregnant By Elvis, a collection of truly gonzo original tabloid SF for DAW books. Wisely, she undertook this project with the able collaboration of Martin H. Greenberg. Not having learned their lesson, they have also co-edited the Chicks In Chainmail Amazon comedy anthology series for Baen Books, as well as Blood Muse, an anthology of vampire stories for Donald I Fine, Inc.

"Ask Auntie Esther" was her regular etiquette and advice column to the SFlorn in Pulphouse Magazine. Being paid for telling other people how to run their lives sounds like a pretty good deal to her.

Ms. Friesner won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story of 1995 for her work, "Death and the Librarian," and the Nebula for Best Short Story of 1996 for "A Birth Day." (A Birth Day" was also a 1996 Hugo Award finalist.) Her novelette, "Jesus at the Bat" was on the final Nebula ballot in the same year that "Death and the Librarian" won the award. In addition, she has won the Romantic Times award for Best New Fantasy Writer in 1986 and the Skylark Award in 1994. Her short story, "All Vows," took second place in the Asimov's SF Magazine Readers' Poll for 1993 and was a finalist for the Nebula in 1994. Her Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel, Warchild, made the USA TODAY bestseller list.

She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, two rambunctious cats, and a fluctuating population of hamsters.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,076 reviews
Profile Image for Rachel.
451 reviews7 followers
October 18, 2007
I have to say, this book did not work for me at all. It's a retelling of the story of Helen of ancient Greece. Somehow the modern voice applied to her narration just made the story feel totally shallow. "Like, oh my heck, it's the Oracle of Apollo!" Okay, it wasn't that bad, but the modern language took away the credibility of the story for me. Another problem was that the character's "voice" didn't change to adjust for her age at all. She spoke the same way at 6, at 10 and at 14. Again, hard to suspend the disbelief. Usually I really love books for young adults that feature a strong young woman but Helen came across as a tired cliche. Of COURSE she would rather be a warrior than a wool-spinning princess. The worst part? There's a sequel! The story was really only getting started when the book ended. Usually when a book has a sequel I feel I must read it no matter if I loved the first volume or not, but I think I can skip the next one, "Nobody's Prize." Give me a break.
Profile Image for Slumbering Rose.
29 reviews13 followers
January 18, 2009
The description says you'll find yourself rooting for Helen. I beg to disagree. I felt just the opposite. Helen is a spoiled, stubborn, selfish, impulsive, immature, bratty child. She is inconform with everything. She gets her way with everything. She is smarter, slyer, and altogether better than everyone else at everything by the ripe old age of fourteen (she is actually much younger throughout the first half of the book, yet that doesn't impair her knowledge or skills at all). The other characters serve as foils or teachers for Helen.

Okay. Obviously Ms. Friesner wanted to make Helen a strong female character, which is all nice and well, but most (if not all) of it is much too unbelievable. In fact, it seems Ms. Friesner wanted to glamorize every female—excluding Clytemnestra, Helen's twin sister in the book and biggest foil. Helen is perfect; Helen is unhuman.

Root for her? Nay, I wanted to bash her on the head.
Profile Image for Kit.
83 reviews6 followers
March 17, 2008
eh, more crappy ya novels. seriously, what is up with that? ya novels tend to be better than just slapping random words together, right? there is a most definite lack of direction in this, and the characters lack depth, but fine, again, ya novel. is it possible to stop introducing such immature characters and trying to make them pass for mature? just a thought. that doesn't sound unreasonable, right?

another point is, of course, that nothing really happens throughout the course of this book. and the text is GINORMOUS--if this was a word doc in traditional times new roman size 12 font, this would barely hit 100 pages. no plot, no character REALLY, just a half-baked premise--is this what you intend to feed your young adult readers? the main character annoyed the hell out of me. she tried to make her sound like she wasn't being a complete selfish ass by going off and doing whatever the hell she wants, but fails miserably, because, in the end, her character helen goes anyway, and to hell with the people who care about her. this is all on the whim of a childish need for adventure, which makes perfect sense, of course.

too many things to complain about. it would be stupid to rant about a book i don't even much like. i'll end the post shortly, but first, i need to get something straight too. why did the boar hunt last like 2 seconds? it was also never fully explained why 2 girls were able to defeat the boar when 30 or 40 so grown men couldn't, and died doing it. fine, so they're good, but inhuman they are not. and too much of the mythology tried to pass as dialogue, with one character telling it to another--used WAY too much, it is simply not a storytelling device anymore, it was turning my brain into mush. i seriously CANNOT stand it a second longer. maybe i'm just not wired to think like a young adult anymore.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
167 reviews
Want to read
November 28, 2008
Do you like heroines who are strong, independent, and self-sufficient? You may want to meet Helen.

She's not your average princess. Sure, her mother and father are king and queen of Sparta. And sure, she may grow up to be "Helen of Troy." But Helen is a young firecracker of a character.

She is not going to stand around learning how to do needlework while her two brothers, Castor and Polydeuces, get to have all the fun of learning to ride and hunt.

She's not going to miss out on all the fun of learning how to use spears and swords. Disguising herself as a boy, she fools everyone but her brothers and their teacher, Glaucus.

Fortunately for Helen, he bought into her theory of how the future queen of the country needs to be able to defend herself.

Now, being an adventurer and hunter like her brothers isn't all fun and games. Helen is learning it takes hard work, sacrifice, and a strong mind.

Some may call her pretty. But Helen pays them no attention. She wants one thing in life: freedom to live HOW she chooses. Beauty can be just as much of a hindrance as a help in that regards.
Profile Image for Lesley.
318 reviews18 followers
November 20, 2014
I don't know what's wrong with me. I want to like the books I read and yet I'm constantly disappointed. Then I read the reviews and other people did like them. So I think the problem is me.

I can definitely see recommending this book to fans of re-told Greek myths, especially ones featuring strong heroines. But here's what I wanted: If it's supposed to be historical fiction, I wanted to know more about what it would have been like to be Helen of Sparta (before she became Helen of Troy) if she were a spunky feminist who wanted to learn how to use a sword and travel the world. How realistic would this have truly been? If it's supposed to be myths brought to life, then I wanted it to stick to the original stories without adding Helen to stories she wasn't a part of. Also, I'd prefer a concentration on one main story so there's a building of tension, a climax, etc., instead of a rambling account of several different unrelated events. Man, I am picky and demanding.

I did like the probable realistic explanations for the stories that have come down to us as hyperbolic myths. But I couldn't quite get my bearings in terms of the sensibility: Do the characters think like ancient Greeks or like modern Americans? Either is fine, but I felt like it bounced back and forth.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,230 reviews1,003 followers
May 15, 2012
An historical novel about Helen of Sparta (before she grew up and became Helen of Troy)? Sounded compelling to me! Especially because Sparta is such a fascinating, complex and often-problematic culture.

Unfortunately, I got the impression from this book that it was written as a generic Western-princess-fairytale, the publisher thought it was too bland, and encouraged the author to put a Grecian gloss over the thing. It's still generic and bland - and at no point does it feel like it takes place in Sparta.

Helen is a spoiled brat who reads like a modern pre-teen. She spends most of the book whining.

Helen's big thing is that she wants to train with her brothers, doing physical exercise instead of sitting in the house spinning and weaving with her mother and sisters. Later, she meets an oh-so-unusual horsewoman and has to sneak around to learn to ride, secretly.

Here's in thing: in Sparta, spinning and weaving was done ONLY BY SLAVES. No upper-class Spartan woman did that sort of work, let alone a "princess." And - could we POSSIBLY call the garments worn by Spartan women 'chitons' not 'dresses'? Speaking of clothing, Spartan women frequently did not wear clothing - when they were doing the strenuous exercise and physical training that ALL young Spartans, male and female, participated in. A young Spartan woman would have had a time of it getting OUT of having to exercise, not getting TO exercise. Not only that, but upper-class Spartan women frequently rode horses, bred horses, and owned horses.

OK, I don't mind having preconceptions challenged by a novel. Perhaps the past wasn't like our concepts about it. Open my horizons. Challenge me. But - nothing about this book's setting felt 'Spartan' - or even 'foreign' at all. It was more Ren-Faire Medieval than anything. I have no problem at all with stories that show young women struggling against the sexist expectations of their society.

The problem here, though, is that this ISN'T a Spartan society. It's Our society, with a pseudo-Medieval, pseudo-Greek gloss on it.
The end result was that I felt that this book ends up being the opposite of empowering, because by showing a culture far removed from our own being sexist in so exactly the same ways as our own, instead of showing that sexist stereotypes can be overcome and defeated, it actually reinforces the message that these ideas about women are universal throughout the world and history and therefore are likely true.

Don't get me wrong - I don't demand that every book have an 'empowering' message. But I felt like this one meant to, and it backfired.The reason I like to read historical novels is to feel like I have been transported into another culture, another way of living, another way of seeing the world. Based on those criteria, this book was a complete failure.

It went to the top of my to-read list because I saw the sequel at the discount store, and I was wondering if I should buy it. The answer is "no."
Profile Image for Sella Malin.
458 reviews142 followers
February 7, 2009
This book was pretty good...Some parts were exciting, while others were kind of boring. I thought the idea was pretty interesting, since I love Greek mythology, and I'm fascinated with the legend of Helen and Troy...It was cool to see this author's view on Helen's childhood, though it wasn't written that well.

There were only a few things that bothered me. The author italicizes words way too often, about ten times every page, and so that was quite frustrating.

Also, the author had a tendency to go off on a rant about things that weren't that important or significant to the plot.

Lastly, the author left out a few things that were supposed to have happened to Helen when she was at a certain age. For example, she was never kidnapped by Theseus at age ten, but rather passed that year with nothing like that happening, which made me feel exasperated. Other than that, it was pretty good.

It left off at a cliffhanger, and I'll probably read the sequel...
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,609 followers
September 1, 2008
A fascinating look at not just the childhood of Helen of Troy, but of the era in which she lived. The historical notes at the back of the book talk about how Helen would have lived not in Greece's Golden Age, when Homer was writing the Iliad, but centuries before in the Bronze Age. It put a whole new spin on the story: reading and writing were nonexistent, as was money, and the women of Sparta really would have been huntresses in their own right. Very intriguing! My only complaint is that there were a few too many "training montages" if you will, when Helen was learning some new skill.

Profile Image for Joselyn  Moreno.
743 reviews31 followers
July 13, 2015
I loved it so much, to tell a story like that was so cool and I found myself devouring the book in a couple of days.

The fact that I love greece and sparta to begin with was a plus to this book, I was rapidly immerse on all the mythology and names and cities.

I can't wait enough for the second book to see how this all will end or start and I thinks this series is one I would grow to love.

One of the things I really liked was that Helen was no damsel in distress, she is a strong female that wants everything the world can give and more. The way she fights for what she wants and believes is right is inspiring so I hope every girl embrace her as a role model and fight back for what they want.

More reviews www.bookwormiespot.com
Profile Image for Asghar Abbas.
Author 3 books191 followers
April 21, 2017

Don't judge me. I can still feel you judging me with your judgy little eyes, hehe.

After seeing Manu Bennett in the ill fitting Shannara Chronicles, I was missing the sublime Spartacus. I noticed that this book was published in 2007 and that reminded me of 300 a silly but fun movie. So I succumbed and picked this novel up.

Nostalgia would kill you, so put down that pipe.

While not quite the adventurous fun ride it was pretending to be, I did enjoy and even liked some aspects of it. Plus MC training with the sword reminded me of Arya, so there's that.

Interestingly enough, the endnote was way more, well, interesting than this short novel itself. So read it just for that.
Profile Image for Katie.
2,647 reviews143 followers
May 31, 2020
Huh. This just ended up finishing unfinished. I know there's a sequel, but I guess I expected more plot threads to be wrapped up. I also didn't realize it doesn't really get to the Helen myth itself. Which having read the author's afterward, I now get that's what she was going for! But I went in with the wrong expectations.

And in my 30's, it just feels like I've read this kind of story a lot before. Which isn't really a fault of this particular book.

So . . . overall, wrong reader!

Owned ebook 3/2 for the month
Overall owned book 5/5 for the month

Profile Image for Nina ✿ Looseleaf Reviews ✿.
143 reviews54 followers
January 19, 2016
This review also appears on:

It's books like this that I can never believe are actually published.

The premise is a retelling of the story of Helen of Troy as a young teen. I understand, Helen of Troy was gorgeous and everyone loved her, but this was played up to a sickening degree in the book. Everything went right for her and there was hardly any conflict. It felt as if whenever she was in trouble, she just had to show her pretty face and everyone would dive to her aid.

The narration was also very week. It was very simplistic, flat, and, well, like a whiny teenager. Just a few chapters in and I was already sick of hearing Helen's voice.

Lastly, it is meant to be set in ancient Greece, but the atmosphere hardly feels as if it is. It reads like a story about a modern teen who will mention the name of a Greek god every so often.

Whatever you're looking for--romance, adventure, Greek history, or a strong female protagonist--I can assure you that you won't find it in this book.
Profile Image for Rachel.
101 reviews5 followers
March 10, 2010
This book is crap. It's about a little girl who crossdresses and goes on adventures!!! I mean, what the heck was the author thinking when she wrote this?!?! And even if ur into little crossdressing female adventurers, this book is a waste of life. It has no substance and is more work to read than it's worth.
Dear Author, please stop causing innocent readers to waste money and time!

Warning: DON'T READ!! Even if someone has a gun to your head ordering you to read it, it's better to die than waste the hours of your life it takes to read this book.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,084 reviews215 followers
August 27, 2022
Nobody's Princess is the first installment within the Nobody's Princess series.

Every once in a while, a book will stump me. This book most definitely did that very thing to me because I'm still not sure how I feel about what happened. Yes, our main character frustrated me for most of this book. Yet, she still had moments where I actually quite liked her.

On top of that roller coaster ride, it also felt like things were connecting with one another either. Or maybe I was just getting too distracted with work to realize that maybe it was a reader error (like user error lol). Without spoiling much, it felt like we would jump from things randomly and never truly get the explanation as to why. So, with that reason alone, I think this could have used some pages for filler or maybe even chapters. Just so I could see the transitions throughout easier.

Then again, it could just be me being weird and feeling this way. Not sure if I will jump into the next book or not. I guess it will depend on whether I will eventually cross paths with it or forever ghost the series. Maybe one day I'll jump back into this and see if my opinions will change or stay the same. Or maybe not.
Profile Image for jules.
192 reviews
November 13, 2010
Nobody's Princess. The title says it all-- what it's supposed to be. A girl who kicks some Ancient Greece butt, right?? WRONG! I came into this book thinking that it was about a girl warrior who prefers being a warrior to a princess. Hmm.. kind of a false guess, I suppose. The author could've AT LEAST had Helen be the best fighter ever, kicking the butts of all those tough Spartan warriors. NO!! Helen seemed to be a character who just kind of wanted to become a warrior and trained with her brothers but wasn't really that good. She tried in their fighting lessons, but I never got the sense that she was really that awesome of a warrior! More on that later. But, really, this was supposed to be a major GIRL POWER book!! But that doesn't really work if the main character is uninteresting, weird, and just plain not the best girl power role model.
Okey, I do have some "evidence" to support this thought. Well, in the book, there was one part where Helen and her two older brothers go to some place to kill a dangerous bull or creature that was living in the mountains. So we're all ready to see Helen kill that bull and rub it in those warriors' faces, right?? Well, instead, she kind of just tags behind and helps out someone to kill the bull, but without taking it into her hands, being the best warrior, or being brave enough to kill it herself. Also in this part of the book, Helen met another girl "warrior", Atalanta. Now Atalanta was definitely more of the kind who was a girl power character. If the book was about her, that would've been way better. So, anyway, Atalanta starts training Helen more, but I kind of got the sense that Atalanta didn't even like her, so why was she spending time with her?? It also just added to the fact that Helen is NOT NOT NOT the best warrior in the land because Atalanta was better than her.
I'm not going to say I'm that sorry for this, because why would I want to read about a book that has a girl just trying to be big and tagging along behind her brothers to pretend to be brave. If only Helen had been exciting and had some major kick butt scenes. BUt, nope, she didn't, so don't waste YOUR time reading this book.
Profile Image for Cecilia.
383 reviews11 followers
April 3, 2009
What a lovely retelling, and this is just the beginning of Helen's story! In the original myth, you do not hear a lot about Helen - only that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Indeed, she is forever remembered as Helen of Troy. Even I did not remember that she came from Sparta. The most beautiful woman came from Sparta? How interesting! I am glad Esther Friesner decided to investigate further into Helen before she became "of Troy."

What I really enjoyed about Nobody's Princess is the cameo appearances and mentions of other noteworthy Greekers such as Theseus, Atalanta, and Heracles. In myths, one tends to forget that some of them could have happened at around the same time...and possibly the same place.

While they worship and pay respects to the Greek gods and goddesses, the Olympians do not make an actual appearance. I suspect they never will. Friesner seems to be focusing on making this myth as realistic as possible. While there may be boasts and rumors about dragons and hydras and Golden Fleeces, the characters themselves admit that these are great exaggerations.

Nobody's Princess focuses on a young Helen - still in her pre-pubescent years, I believe, on the cusp of womanhoood. I am eager to read the sequel Nobody's Prize that has already been released to watch her grow into that famous face that launched 1000 ships and led to the ruin of Troy.

Complete review on my blog
Profile Image for Paradoxical.
350 reviews34 followers
June 8, 2011
Nobody's Princess is a cute story. Shallow, a wandering plot, meh-ish characterization... it's still cute. That's pretty much all you can say about it. Helen is an interesting character as she grows up, but she comes off rather selfish (which isn't all that bad), and she always gets her way. All of the female characters are rather strong, which isn't a bad thing to see, but it was rather... hm. Like instead of being equal with men, they're written as better, only with added bonus of the men beating them down. Which I get, I really do, but it just rang very shallow to me.

The plot wandered. The first half is about Helen growing up and being cute and spunky and oh so very determined to be able to beat her brothers into the ground (well, learn how to fight, heh). The second half was about her journey to Mykenae, meeting Atalanta, and trying to participate in the hunt for the Calydonian boar. Then it's about the Pythia and sailing off to her next adventure. No central plot line other than Helen wanting to go on adventures like her brothers.

Ah, another thing that bothered me, the glamorization of these adventures. Yes, they're exciting, but they're also hard and dirty and people die. Seems like the author just sort of skips all the bad bits and goes straight for fun and exciting. There are some hard moments, but it never happens to Helen. She pretty much just leads a charmed life.

All in all, shallow. It's cute, but shallow. 2 stars.
Profile Image for Lucille.
282 reviews10 followers
May 28, 2012
This is the story of Helen of Sparta before she became Helen of Troy. It had potential to be really interesting, to imagine what the woman with a face that launched a thousand ships was like when she was a girl. But it all just fell flat for me- the characters, the plot, the writing, everything. I think that one problem was that things were too rushed. It was a fairly short book and I don't think that enough time and attention were spent on the various places that Helen travelled, the things she did there, and the people that she met. All of the friendships seemed random and forced, and the people that she did not get along with were also random, they just popped out of nowhere and then disappeared as soon as the random interaction was done with. I thought that I would have liked the whole 'princess wanting to learn how to fight with her brothers and dressing up as a boy and doing whatever she has to' thing, but I just found that it wasn't as well executed as say, something that you might find in a Tamora Pierce novel. Also, Helen's character and some of the dialogue just bothered me at times. At of that being said, I didn't hate the book. I read it in about three and a half hours because I was interested to see where it was going (a big fat cliffhanger, that's where it was going) and if it's a series, maybe I'll contemplate reading the second, just to see if it gets better (it probably won't, but you never know).
Profile Image for Gracie Twidale.
34 reviews
June 2, 2015
Okay, so this book... At first I can't really say I hated it... But then I read on. The style of writing was very childish and annoying. I don't know what I expected really, the blurb on the back wasn't amazing either. What really drew me in was the fact that it was about the Greek gods and the was set in the time of Helen of Troy (or Sparta). The story line was very bland and had no high-point or plot twists. She had no love interest and it started off from too young of age. Overall, I might read the next one (not anytime soon) just to see if it gets any better (I have very low expectations). Maybe this book was aimed at a lower age group from the beginning...
24 reviews1 follower
June 10, 2008
i actually give it 1.5 stars. it was just kinda boring & there wasn't really a point. or i missed it. the only thing i can think of...and i'm reaching...is that the journey is more important than the goal and her character is what will bring her to her ultimate place in life. but it's a book and a book requires a plot not just a character. so this book is kinda junk. and what is more annoying is that there is a book 2 and i probably have to read it b/c i want to know what happens even though in the end i probably won't care. :)
Profile Image for Nana Spark.
205 reviews2 followers
June 16, 2020
Cool premise but meh ~

I really liked the premise of this book, but a lot happened that I just saw as really meh. For example: Helen is learning how to use a sword, traveling around with her siblings, going on wild hunts, but there's not much of a *wow* factor to it, it's just kinda meh.

The characters were meh. The plot was meh. The writing was meh.

Wasn't a horrible book but I didn't find much enjoyment out of it. :/
Profile Image for Kristi.
1,188 reviews2,890 followers
October 26, 2008
I enjoyed Friesner’s rendition on the story of Helen’s youth. I really liked getting to know more about the ancient Greeks and their customs. The plot flows well and is interesting throughout the entire story. I can’t wait to read more about Helen’s character and her adventures in Nobody’s Prize. If you enjoy historical fiction or mythology, I think you would enjoy this book!
Profile Image for Victoria Kennedy.
Author 5 books33 followers
September 22, 2015
Originally published on My Books Are Me

I stumbled upon this book by chance, and I'm so glad I did! As someone who has been studying history for several years, and currently majoring in history at University, this book appealed to me a lot, especially since I already had some idea of what ancient Sparta was like. Granted, I haven't studied Helen of Troy or much of the mythology in the book that closely, but it was easy to pick up on the story and imagine the place and time which Helen was living.

The story follows Helen of Troy, or really, Helen of Sparta, as a child and teenager. We see her in the Spartan palace, working towards her future as Queen of Sparta, but trying to avoid the traditional path laid out for her. Instead of needlework with the other ladies, Helen is more at home outside in the training yard with her brothers, learning how to fight and be a strong Queen, able to lead her future army into battle. Of course, a future queen cannot be seen acting like such a boy, and so only a few know about Helen's training, including her supportive mother. When her twin sister is to marry the Prince of Mykenae, Helen, along with her brothers, join their sister on her journey to her new kingdom. However, the real adventure begins when Helen's brothers, Castor and Polydeuces decide to head to Calydon to join the hunt for a rabid boar. Helen soon discovers that she doesn't want to be an average queen, and sees her future on the battlefield and on quests that will make her one of the most heroic and famous queens of her time, not just a pretty face.

I really enjoyed this book and it combined mythology and history with fiction to create an interesting story. Because I have studied Ancient Spartan and Greek culture and society, I loved reading pieces that I had some knowledge of and knew what things were referring to. However, this doesn't mean that someone who doesn't have this history or mythology knowledge won't be able to enjoy this book. If you love books about strong female roles, then this is something you will definitely enjoy. The message that Helen embodies is that you should be judged and praised on your abilities, not your looks, which is something that a lot of teenagers and young girls need to see in literature. It's great to see that Friesner has written a story (actually a series of stories) that have strong female leads that focus on their strengths, not their beauty.

However, I feel Helen lacks development and we fail to see any real difference in character and voice from the ages of six to fourteen - if it hadn't been for the mention of her age changes, I may have thought to were six through the entire book. Also, the fleeting mentions of many myths seemed to only create more questions. Yes, they may be myths a lot of people are familiar with, but a little bit more of an in-depth discussion of them wouldn't have gone astray. Some myths seemed only to have been mentioned for the sake of cramming as much Greek mythology into the book as possible, and the myths actually to do with the story where glossed over. But, it's only a small issue from someone who loves history and mythology.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and will definitely be continuing on with the sequel Nobody's Prize which picks up exactly where this novel ended. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys history, Greek mythology, and strong and independent female leads.

Originally published on My Books Are Me - www.mybooksareme.weebly.com
Profile Image for TL .
1,790 reviews35 followers
September 4, 2014
This was a light, enjoyable read... it was fun to read about Helen as a child and her determination to choose her own path. I loved seeing her stand up for her brothers, herself, and her friends.

Atalanta I adored, wish she had had a bigger part in the novel,She was very interesting. She would make a fine queen if she chose to marry someone (I can see her rolling her eyes and glaring at me for that hehe). Love seeing a warrior woman in this, though I wanted to smack certain men's faces sometimes for their remarks about her. Hopefully she'll appear in future novel *crosses fingers*

If it were me back then, I probly would done what Atalanta did... I am not good at sewing and the like haha ;-)

How I pictured Atalanta and Helen:(just my personal vision)



Helen's brothers Castor and Polydeuces made me smile; loyal,affectionate, and protective of each other and Helen (sometimes too protective for Helen's taste)... their teasing of each other reminded me of my brother and myself :). I got a good laugh when Helen whipped their butts in one of the training practices *smirks*

Milo was adorable in his devotion to Helen! I just wanted to eat him up sometimes.

Some of those greek names I can't pronounce, do they really need such odd names? Haha ;-)

Theseus was a right ass, *glares and steps away from him* glad he was put in his place, thinks he's a gift to women *snorts*

Despite the characters and the environment/atmosphere popping off the pages, I didn't fully connect with everyone in the narrative. I felt like I was an outsider dropping in and spying on them rather than being a part of their adventures. Perhaps this was the author's intent, drop hints of them then suck us in more for the second book?

Not a deal breaker for me but I wish everyone had been fleshed out a bit more.

There were also times I thought Helen behaved irrationally... her intentions were good and I could understand her frustration but she could've used more sense on those occasions.

All in all, I would recommend... it's not a deep read but alot of fun and sets up nicely for the next installment.

Happy reading! *waves*
Profile Image for Penwiper.
40 reviews3 followers
April 24, 2010
At first, this book was fairly promising. The prose was adequate, and the idea was good. Okay, girls who show their spunky grrrl-itude by learning "manly" arts and rejecting "womanly" ones make me twitch, but in this case it was at least done well enough that I could tolerate it and go on with the story.

Unfortunately, the story just simply didn't go anywhere. It was odd, because there were a lot of potential places where the plot could have taken off, but as soon as anything started building up, the plot would twist away from it. It was almost as though the author didn't know how to handle action or tension, and so was avoiding it. I know that this author has written numerous other books and stories, so I was surprised at this.

And the really annoying thing is that there was a lot of potential. Take, for instance, one scene that should have been just oozing with drama. A secondary-character prince, having narrowly beaten a secondary-character warrior-woman to the prize of the hunt and having slain the wild boar, dramatically presents her with the prize saying she should have won it. The other warriors cry out at him giving this honor to such an unnatural female, whereupon in a fit of rage he draws his sword and attacks them, leading to wild bloodshed and his eventual death. Awesome! What a chance for great tension! What opportunities for wrenching emotion! Here's a place where the action can really get going! Except..... there's absolutely no build-up to this scene, and no emotional denouement. The scene took maybe one page, the fighting took up maybe 3 sentences, and the whole was described with all the drama of a 3rd-grade spelling lesson. The main characters are instantly hustled off the scene by the author and the remaining action is described to them later, and mostly forgotten about within a few pages. Dull, dull dull!

The book ended with the main characters having moved around a bit, but not having really achieved anything, affected anything, or having changed themselves (which is a pity, because they're all very bland and generic). But the book has a sequel, so maybe the whole first book was just a buildup to whatever is going to happen in the next book. Worth a try.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kristy.
592 reviews84 followers
July 5, 2010
3 stars might be generous on this one.... I'm thinking that the books will get progressively better each time (next book is "Nobody's Prize).
This one started off slow and slightly boring...but as the end approached it got more and more exciting.
I'm on the fence for this one, I don't know if I liked it or not....
However, I liked it enough to read the next book, take it how you will.
Profile Image for Aphelia.
341 reviews43 followers
December 18, 2021
Started as a short story called "Thunderbolt" in Young Warriors: Stories of Strength.

I've read several of Friesner's many short stories (her bio claims she has "31 novels and over 150 short stories" to her credit) and I've been curious about her longer writing so I snapped this one up.

It's a pleasant, highly readable retelling of Helen of Troy, similar to Mercedes Lackey's light style. It does end on a cliffhanger, not sure how many books are in the series.

A long Author's Note at the end - "Something About Helen" - discusses the origin myths and Friesner's wish to maker her character relatable.

She succeeded, perhaps a little too well. Helen is a typical young teenager, questioning her place in the world. Told since childhood that she is a great beauty, Helen tries to find out what beauty is really worth.

Once she establishes its use as a tool for manipulation, she scares herself and - in an interesting turn - moves on to the study of swordsmanship.

Although the goddess Artemis is a hunter, women - especially Princesses - are forbidden from doing so, so Helen secretly enlists the help of her brothers' teacher. Her fancy becomes fervour once she meets a female warrior, Atalanda, who teaches her how to ride her horse.

When her brothers leave to help Jason find the Golden Fleece, Helen is faced with a choice: return home and learn how to be a queen (as it will be impossible for her to continue training without her brothers) or stretch her freedom her boyish disguise gives her to its furthest limit yet.

Naturally, she decides on the latter and hatches a madcap plan to sneak aboard the Argo and join in the adventure, which is where the story pause. I would read the sequel.

I liked Helen's determination, once she got over her bratty stage, but she is very impulsive to the point of impetuousness, which is frustrating. Friesner's skill lies in making ancient Greece and its complex religion seem vibrant and believable to a modern audience. Light fun!
Profile Image for Nelly Alikyan.
Author 11 books21 followers
July 26, 2017
There was no plot to this, literally just different interactions amongst different days of her life.
Profile Image for John Loyd.
1,102 reviews29 followers
May 1, 2020
We follow Helen of Sparta from a very young age. In Sparta we learn her character. She doesn't want everything handed to her because she is pretty. She gets her brothers' weapons trainer to teach her how to fight along with the older boys. Her sister gets betrothed to a prince from Mykenae. A great boar hunt in Calydon, followed by a trip home which is interrupted by a stay in Delphi.

Fun, some really laugh out loud moments. Part I is a really nice introduction to the characters, entertaining. Part II is short and to the point. Letting us know that Helen knows what's going on. Part III was excellent, tells us how she made friends with Atalanta, the one hunter that didn't try to boast about previous exploits or claim lineage from the gods. Part IV, again Helen makes another new friend. The ending didn't leave us hanging, but was definitely a setup for Nobody's Prize.

Really readable, maybe I should switch to all YA. Very funny, with many LOL moments. 5 of 5 stars, a pleasure to read.
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