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Daughters of Sparta

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For millennia, men have told the legend of the woman whose face launched a thousand ships--but now it's time to hear her side of the story. Daughters of Sparta is a tale of secrets, love, and tragedy from the women behind mythology's most devastating war, the infamous Helen and her sister Klytemnestra. As princesses of Sparta, Helen and Klytemnestra have known nothing but l For millennia, men have told the legend of the woman whose face launched a thousand ships--but now it's time to hear her side of the story. Daughters of Sparta is a tale of secrets, love, and tragedy from the women behind mythology's most devastating war, the infamous Helen and her sister Klytemnestra. As princesses of Sparta, Helen and Klytemnestra have known nothing but luxury and plenty. With their high birth and unrivaled beauty, they are the envy of all of Greece. But such privilege comes at a cost. While still only girls, the sisters are separated and married to foreign kings of their father's choosing--the powerful Agamemnon, and his brother Menelaos. Yet even as Queens, each is only expected to do two things: birth an heir and embody the meek, demure nature that is expected of women. But when the weight of their husbands' neglect, cruelty, and ambition becomes too heavy to bear, Helen and Klytemnestra must push against the constraints of their society to carve new lives for themselves, and in doing so, make waves that will ripple throughout the next three thousand years. Daughters of Sparta is a vivid and illuminating reimagining of the Siege of Troy, told through the perspectives of two women whose voices have been ignored for far too long. Required reading for fans of Circe, and a remarkable, thrilling debut. --Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue "[A] gorgeous retelling of the classic Greek myth... Absolutely riveting!" --Alka Joshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Henna Artist


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For millennia, men have told the legend of the woman whose face launched a thousand ships--but now it's time to hear her side of the story. Daughters of Sparta is a tale of secrets, love, and tragedy from the women behind mythology's most devastating war, the infamous Helen and her sister Klytemnestra. As princesses of Sparta, Helen and Klytemnestra have known nothing but l For millennia, men have told the legend of the woman whose face launched a thousand ships--but now it's time to hear her side of the story. Daughters of Sparta is a tale of secrets, love, and tragedy from the women behind mythology's most devastating war, the infamous Helen and her sister Klytemnestra. As princesses of Sparta, Helen and Klytemnestra have known nothing but luxury and plenty. With their high birth and unrivaled beauty, they are the envy of all of Greece. But such privilege comes at a cost. While still only girls, the sisters are separated and married to foreign kings of their father's choosing--the powerful Agamemnon, and his brother Menelaos. Yet even as Queens, each is only expected to do two things: birth an heir and embody the meek, demure nature that is expected of women. But when the weight of their husbands' neglect, cruelty, and ambition becomes too heavy to bear, Helen and Klytemnestra must push against the constraints of their society to carve new lives for themselves, and in doing so, make waves that will ripple throughout the next three thousand years. Daughters of Sparta is a vivid and illuminating reimagining of the Siege of Troy, told through the perspectives of two women whose voices have been ignored for far too long. Required reading for fans of Circe, and a remarkable, thrilling debut. --Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue "[A] gorgeous retelling of the classic Greek myth... Absolutely riveting!" --Alka Joshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Henna Artist

30 review for Daughters of Sparta

  1. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Poor Sparta, poor daughters, women, etc. I'm not sure what I think about Helen now. Yes, I have known this tale since childhood but ... Basically, she was the reason her niece, Iphigenia, died a horrible death, the reason Klytemnestra murdered Agamemnon, the reason Klytemnestra had to marry out of Sparta in the first place.... Klytemnestra would've been happiest, had she stayed at Sparta but no, NO, she had to go away, give away her birthright kingdom to Helen who just didn't appreciate it. And i Poor Sparta, poor daughters, women, etc. I'm not sure what I think about Helen now. Yes, I have known this tale since childhood but ... Basically, she was the reason her niece, Iphigenia, died a horrible death, the reason Klytemnestra murdered Agamemnon, the reason Klytemnestra had to marry out of Sparta in the first place.... Klytemnestra would've been happiest, had she stayed at Sparta but no, NO, she had to go away, give away her birthright kingdom to Helen who just didn't appreciate it. And it's not really a case of morbid ungratefullness on the part of Helen, she's just as much a victim of it all. Of her unfortunate birth, of her unhappy mother (who seems to have been a victim of rape in this one), of her aloof husband, Menelaus, of giving birth really early in life (like everyone contemporary but still), of her looks, even. The thing is... she seems to be one of those unlucky people who just can't not attract trouble to everyone around them. The only person worse off in terms of luck, seems to be Paris. While Helen is a passive unluck attractor, he's an active one. I'm really sorry about his parents... We can't blame Helen. She's just in a crossfire of other people's actions and considerations. Also, of the women's status then. Just like Klytemnestra. Still, the only action she did (go away with Paris), was the most destructive of all, she's basically the most murderous person of the Ancient Myths. All the while she doesn't actually do any active acctions, only passive ones and to what effect?! She could've invented and used a nuclear bomb wreaking less destruction. An interesting thing is how Hector tells her that the war had a lot more underlying cause that just a woman and a treasury. Basically, Greece needed resources at the time and attacking a rich kingdom was a great way to get them (maybe, if one doesn't consider the expense of a drawn out war, people left dead or crippled, the whole Greece left idling for about a decade, etc). Also, consider the Orientalistic culture of Troy as it was shown here and we've got a clash of civilizations on our hands, not a hunt for a prodigal wife. I loved Hector's portrayal: noble and admirable. Just love it. Too bad he was destined to die in that deadly war. Andromache's character's bitterness made her not my fav. Even though all of it is all too understandable: losing her kid, her status, her loved husband, her fortune, having her destiny remade into other, very other situation by 2 uncaring persons right next to her... One could say she had admirable restraint, after all. Gosh, I want to find a novel about Hector and Andromache now. Even though they are so very epically star-crossed. Poor Troy. Poor everyone. This is why diplomacy is a very needed skillset. Any peace is better than any war.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Smith

    Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. I am first and foremost a huge lover of Greek mythology. I hoard my knowledge of it. I seek out retellings. Sometimes I write my own. So when I saw Daughters of Sparta, a retelling of the Trojan War specifically from the perspective of Helen of Sparta/Troy and her sister Clytemnestra, renowned husband-killer, I hit download immediately and was incredibly keen to read it. Daughters of Sparta follows the Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. I am first and foremost a huge lover of Greek mythology. I hoard my knowledge of it. I seek out retellings. Sometimes I write my own. So when I saw Daughters of Sparta, a retelling of the Trojan War specifically from the perspective of Helen of Sparta/Troy and her sister Clytemnestra, renowned husband-killer, I hit download immediately and was incredibly keen to read it. Daughters of Sparta follows the two sisters through childhood, to their separate marriages, motherhood, the fateful moment Helen leaves with Paris for Troy, starting the Trojan War with all of Greece, Agamemnon sacrificing (murdering) Iphigenia, Clytemnestra swearing vengeance and biding her time, the Trojan War itself and the victory of Greece, all to the bitter end. Unfortunately, this novel was a massive disappointment. The writing itself was very easy and quick to read, but nothing about it stood out to me, good or bad, but the novel itself was plagued with issues of lack of characterization, missing details that should have been included as they are relevant to plot, passive voices and little to no personality. It breaks my heart to even say that, because these woman deserved so much better. The novel seemed to err on the side of caution and go more for a realistic portrayal of women in Ancient Greece at the cost of having concrete characterization and core personalities, making them incredibly passive and complacent within their own narrative. Helen herself doesn’t have much about her perspective or actual desires from source material, but THIS is where liberties should be taken with mythology retellings. A solid personality, drive, and values should have been created for her, yet she seemed incredibly passive, wishy-washy, out of place, unanchored, and unremarkable.... and that is not what should have been written for the most beautiful woman in the world, the face that launched a thousand ships. I had greater hope for Clytemnestra’s characterization, since we know, from the fateful sacrifice of her daughter, that her main drive was retribution towards Agamemnon, yet Clytemnestra’s personality was nearly the same! I wanted so badly to have a gorgeous, blazing, fierce portrayal of one of the most famous classical examples of female rage and was given basically nothing. She went back and forth herself, hardly any core personality to speak of, and I had excused it up until the sacrifice, yet it continued. Instead of Clytemnestra’s renowned rage, I was forced to read passages going on about “it was an old wound, it didn’t hurt so much anymore, the anger had died, maybe Agamemnon had changed, maybe I can be a dutiful wife again, I don’t have to kill him” and, frankly, I cannot even begin to put into words how much I disliked this portrayal of her. It seemed like all the life and fire I had associated with Clytemnestra was completely stripped away from her in this novel. And here’s where I can begin to talk about the missing details from Greek mythology that were absent that SHOULD have been in the book to give it more depth and solidity. -Leda’s rape/seduction by Zeus in the form of the swan (the parentage of Helen) was not explicitly stated in any way. There were offhand comments about Leda suffering, not being able to look at Helen, Helen possibly being a bastard, but not much else.... until the king tells Helen that her suitors think she’s the daughter of Zeus and to just “go along with it”. I honestly don’t even know what to make of that. -Paris’ first wife (the nymph) was not acknowledged or mentioned (this point will be referenced again later in my review) -Cassandra was Helen’s only friend in Troy, which I liked, and yet: there was no mention of Cassandra being a priestess of Apollo OR her curse of prophecy! We know that she was cursed by Apollo prior to the beginning of the Trojan War because she sees Paris taking Helen and it starting a war and no one believed her, as well as everyone thinking she was crazy, from the source material. Instead she’s a normal girl and she isn’t cursed as far as Helen and readers can tell. I was questioning this the whole book, for obvious reasons. After the sacking of Troy, she made a comment or two that seemed like she finally had the powers of prophecy, but she never did before, so that doesn’t add up. Several major points of the Trojan War were completely left out, when I think even a sentence or two referencing said events could have really helped the timeline of events. -We see Hector’s death and Achilles dragging his body behind the cart, but no mention of Hector killing Patroclus, which is very much what caused Achilles to target Hector. And there was never any mention of Paris/Apollo killing Achilles. Both of which were important deaths that really heralded the beginning of the end and would have added a lot of context to the book. I’m unsure if the author expects readers to know this. -Not a single mention about the Trojan Horse, either. The Greeks were just “suddenly invading the city” -Paris’ death scene was...... very sudden and kind of amusing in its unimportance but also not what happened in source material. Considering he was supposed to be badly wounded and crawl back to his first wife but she refused to help him and he dies. Frankly, I didn’t really care about this, but just one of the many things I noticed. So I think one of my main problems is that the author should have taken liberties to define our narrators and make them strong instead of trying to stay “true” to the times by making them submissive women only resigned to their fate of being wives and mothers, and stayed true to other details of the mythology. As the main characters, both Helen and Klytemnestra should have shone and leaped from the pages, their desire and female rage ablaze, yet it was merely a whisper. I wanted so badly to enjoy this, but this retelling did absolutely no justice for either Helen or Clytemnestra. At the end of the day, what point is there in retelling a myth at all if it doesn’t elevate and give a fresh voice to the characters humanity has loved for thousands of years?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Klytemnestra and Helen are daughters of Lord Tyndareos, King of Sparta. Klytemnestra as the oldest daughter is the heiress, and so is supposed to be the Queen of Sparta and stay with her family. But her father betroths her to Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, which means she needs to live in his kingdom. All this results in a feeling of betrayal, and fear she will likely never see her family again, since a married woman does not travel, and is the steward of her husbands’ household. Helen, legendary fo Klytemnestra and Helen are daughters of Lord Tyndareos, King of Sparta. Klytemnestra as the oldest daughter is the heiress, and so is supposed to be the Queen of Sparta and stay with her family. But her father betroths her to Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, which means she needs to live in his kingdom. All this results in a feeling of betrayal, and fear she will likely never see her family again, since a married woman does not travel, and is the steward of her husbands’ household. Helen, legendary for her beauty, gets betrothed to Menelaos, who is Agamemnon’s brother. As much as she appreciates her husband’s gentleness, she is frustrated with him not expressing his feelings. Without much conversation between them, she feels as she hardly knows her husband, but now that she is pregnant, he shows a lot of tenderness and she hopes it’s a new beginning for them. When Menelaos welcomes friendship between two kingdoms, his and the one of Troy, it changes everything. Helen is enchanted by the handsome Prince Paris of Troy. His flattery makes her alive again, and she finds herself liking the attention. Meanwhile, Menelaos is forced to leave his kingdom and leave Helen to entertain the guests. Upon returning home from his grandfather’s funeral, he finds his palace ransacked and his wife gone. He just doesn’t know if she went willingly or forcefully. Now, all Greece unites in an effort to fight the rich and powerful Troy. As the story alternates between two sisters, we get to know their thoughts and feelings well. This story is wonderful in exploring those aspects, giving voice to women who didn’t have any voice and any choice in decision making. Readers can certainly feel their frustration, disappointment, and joy. It touches you when Helen’s eyes are opened to the fate of the female slaves as she was too naïve to see what was going around her. Both women defy their husbands in their own way in secret. One dreams of more than just spinning wool, she dreams of weaving words, something meant for men only. This is a straightforward and enjoyable read. This story is character-driven, and the plot is not filled with details of Greek mythology. The ending is touching; in a sense a war had to be fought in order for two people to open up to each other. It brings a human touch to this legendary mythology. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Review originally posted at mysteryandsuspense.com

  4. 5 out of 5

    Helena Paris

    I received this complimentary ARC from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    I really enjoyed this book. After recently graduating with a degree in Classical Studies, I've been missing having to read and think about ancient literature and was excited at the opportunity to read the ARC of this book. I was not disappointed, as I quickly found myself enthralled by this fantastic retelling. It has such a great understanding of everyday life in the ancient world, that it could only have been told by someone like Claire Heywood who has studied it. If you are expecting the inte I really enjoyed this book. After recently graduating with a degree in Classical Studies, I've been missing having to read and think about ancient literature and was excited at the opportunity to read the ARC of this book. I was not disappointed, as I quickly found myself enthralled by this fantastic retelling. It has such a great understanding of everyday life in the ancient world, that it could only have been told by someone like Claire Heywood who has studied it. If you are expecting the intense literary prose of author's like Margaret Atwood or Madeline Miller you may well be disappointed, but I found that the easy to read and simple writing style of this book made the story feel true, and raw. This is the story of two women who have to scratch and claw for any shred of agency that they can reach, and their desire to have some minutia of control over their own lives often gets them into situations that are hard for a modern reader to imagine having to experience. It may be a story about a grand mythical battle, but Heywood roots the story in the real world by only showing us what is happening through the eyes of Helen and Clytemnestra, and their experiences are not all that different from how the real women of in the 13th century BC would have experienced the world. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the ancient world and stories about the women who lived in it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Booktastically Amazing

    I wish I'd have enjoyed this book as much as I wish I had. If you’re looking for a book with strong likable characters, not to mention, strong women with courage as skin- Maybe don’t read this story. (or do, I wouldn't want to ruin a possible next read) I just finished, and I still am waiting for the chance to be available for me to punch every character. So yeah, that’s a nice pro if I need one. I wish I'd have enjoyed this book as much as I wish I had. If you’re looking for a book with strong likable characters, not to mention, strong women with courage as skin- Maybe don’t read this story. (or do, I wouldn't want to ruin a possible next read) I just finished, and I still am waiting for the chance to be available for me to punch every character. So yeah, that’s a nice pro if I need one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Hupe

    Thank you, NetGalley, Claire Heywood, and Dutton Books for the opportunity to read this book. This book will be published on June 22nd, 2021! The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid gave us these legendary stories about legendary men killing each other for glory and battling the gods. We see glimpses of the women behind these men. Now we are gifted with retellings that strive to give these women a voice. The Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood gives the perspective of Klytemnestra and Helen. The Thank you, NetGalley, Claire Heywood, and Dutton Books for the opportunity to read this book. This book will be published on June 22nd, 2021! The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid gave us these legendary stories about legendary men killing each other for glory and battling the gods. We see glimpses of the women behind these men. Now we are gifted with retellings that strive to give these women a voice. The Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood gives the perspective of Klytemnestra and Helen. They are the daughters of Tyndareus and Leda of Sparta. At a young age, they are married off and separated. Helen is married to Menelaos. Klytemnestra is married to Agamemnon. They have to navigate the waters of being a wife to a King in a turbulent time. In this case, the women sacrifice their happiness for the success of their husbands, and stepping out of line can result in disastrous circumstances. Trigger Warnings: Miscarriage, Child Loss, Murder, Rape One thing that I absolutely loved about this book is how it navigates childhood, sisterhood, marriage, and motherhood in Ancient times. Helen clearly has some elements of postpartum depression with the birth of Hermione. But also, the author does go into the fact that these women weren’t “women” when they are married and get pregnant. They are still girls. Barely teenagers and they are forced into a world where they have to submit to the will of men. Menelaos is not a cruel man…not like Agamemnon. But they are still forced into situations that they would not choose for themselves. One thing that I didn’t like, is their personalities. Helen is the face that launched a thousand ships! She is left by her husband for the handsome, yet cowardly, Paris. And she falls a little flat. Paris is a giant tool—but we ALL know this, even in The Iliad, we know this. Give Helen something. We don’t get her side of the story, so make her LEGENDARY. It’s the same thing with Klytemnestra. She knows that her daughter is about to be sacrificed by her husband and she just lets it happen. I know, she doesn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, but let’s have her do something rather than just stand by as her child’s throat gets slit to appease the gods. But overall, I was completely immersed. The author writes with wonderful ease and I did feel like the description is on point. I could visualize the palaces and the danger that lurks there. I do hope Claire Heywood writes some more mythology or fairytale retellings! She does have a knack for creating the appropriate aesthetic in the stories. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lian Dolan

    A brilliant & emotional retelling of two ancient daughters of Sparta, Helen & Klytemnestra, through the modern eyes of Classicist- turned-novelist Claire Heywood. I'll admit that I was predisposed to love this book, as a students of Classics in college and someone who also wrote a novel about Helen of Troy after a lifelong fascination with her. (Helen of Pasadena, a contemporary social satire) But Heywood's lovely and nuanced portrait of Helen, the great beauty of Greece and the face that launch A brilliant & emotional retelling of two ancient daughters of Sparta, Helen & Klytemnestra, through the modern eyes of Classicist- turned-novelist Claire Heywood. I'll admit that I was predisposed to love this book, as a students of Classics in college and someone who also wrote a novel about Helen of Troy after a lifelong fascination with her. (Helen of Pasadena, a contemporary social satire) But Heywood's lovely and nuanced portrait of Helen, the great beauty of Greece and the face that launched a thoudanss ships, and her older and doomed sister Klytemnestra surpassed my expectations with evocative language, accurate history and an authentic emotional arc for both sisters. Fans of Madeline Miller's book will find a lot to like here. 4.5 stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Wow! This book is incredible! It is moving, heart-wrenching, enthralling, intriguing, and so much more! Whenever I picked up "Daughters of Sparta", I was whisked back in time to Ancient Greece, and went on such an emotional journey with this book. This is Claire Heywood's debut novel, and what an incredible debut it is! Her storytelling is spectacular! Her passion for what she is writing truly jumps right off of the page, and I was gripped from the first page to the last. I can only imagine the a Wow! This book is incredible! It is moving, heart-wrenching, enthralling, intriguing, and so much more! Whenever I picked up "Daughters of Sparta", I was whisked back in time to Ancient Greece, and went on such an emotional journey with this book. This is Claire Heywood's debut novel, and what an incredible debut it is! Her storytelling is spectacular! Her passion for what she is writing truly jumps right off of the page, and I was gripped from the first page to the last. I can only imagine the amount of meticulous research Ms. Heywood must have done, as I felt so immersed in the world of "Daughters of Sparta" that I often forgot I was reading. I felt like I was right there with the characters. This mythological retelling focuses on the lives of sisters Helen and Klytemnestra, beginning in their childhood, and is told through their eyes. As the reader, I really got a sense of their wants, fears, and desires, and how both women strive for any amount of control over their own lives. From love, to devastation, and to so much more, you can truly feel so much for these women. I was somewhat familiar with both of these women's stories, and I do not want to spoil anything in this review. I will simply say, this book is a must read, and provides a different perspective from what I have read before. Throughout the book, many other mythological figures are seen or spoken about. We see how each and every one affects Helen's and / or Klytemnestra's lives, and bring something forth in the women. I did feel, at times, that the writing felt a little too modern for when the book is set, and that certain events are either rushed through, or not mentioned at all. While not each and every aspect has to be mentioned, I think some would have helped to fill in some gaps in time here and there. However, even with this said, I still think this is an amazing book, and I had such a hard time putting it down. If you enjoy Greek Mythology retellings, I highly recommend this book! It had me turning the pages into the early hours of the night to see what happened next, I can't wait to see what Ms. Heywood writes next! Thank you so much to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Dutton for the ARC of this book, it Is incredible! All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michaela

    I always loved the mythology of Ancient Greece and liked to read retellings. This book deals with the stories of Klytemnestra and Helen from their youth till after the Trojan War. It´s well written, and describes the life of women in a world of men and war, without self-determination. There is a certain development in their lives, but they can be any women, not those of the Iliad and the other Greek stories. A quick read though. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an I always loved the mythology of Ancient Greece and liked to read retellings. This book deals with the stories of Klytemnestra and Helen from their youth till after the Trojan War. It´s well written, and describes the life of women in a world of men and war, without self-determination. There is a certain development in their lives, but they can be any women, not those of the Iliad and the other Greek stories. A quick read though. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nerdy Werewolf

    "And as the sky of her mind cleared, another thought slowly surfaced. She did not have to be Helen the unwanted. Not anymore." Thoughts are dangerous if you're a woman. That's a lot of that theme in this book, which is unsurprising given the setting. I found myself identifying with both heroines throughout their struggles. Obviously, there were choices they made that I wouldn't have made...or is that true? The fact that I'm asking that question makes the story succeed. It's not overly-prose-y, but "And as the sky of her mind cleared, another thought slowly surfaced. She did not have to be Helen the unwanted. Not anymore." Thoughts are dangerous if you're a woman. That's a lot of that theme in this book, which is unsurprising given the setting. I found myself identifying with both heroines throughout their struggles. Obviously, there were choices they made that I wouldn't have made...or is that true? The fact that I'm asking that question makes the story succeed. It's not overly-prose-y, but it is beautifully written. It's easy to follow and understand, more so if you're familiar with the myths. It's not a specifically happy book, but it's not a true tragedy, either. I would categorize it as hopeful, I think. When you read a story like this, it's meant to sit with you and I think this one does. The characters were vibrant and passionate. They mention the Gods and sacrifices and prayers, but we never interact with these bigger-than-life deities. They are prevalent in the story, though. It's really a tale about searching for personal happiness when your decisions may not be entirely your own. I'd honestly read a follow-up by this author. She put time and effort and thought into what these figures could have been thinking and feeling and if that was the goal: success!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Reading on the Rocks

    Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of Daughters of Sparta in exchange for an honest review. Daughters of Sparta left me wishing for more, but not in a good way. In the novel, author Claire Heywood imagines how Helen, the queen of Sparta who began the Trojan war, and her sister Klytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon, would have lived prior to and during the war. The story begins with their childhood, then diverges as each sister is led further and further apart in the anci Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of Daughters of Sparta in exchange for an honest review. Daughters of Sparta left me wishing for more, but not in a good way. In the novel, author Claire Heywood imagines how Helen, the queen of Sparta who began the Trojan war, and her sister Klytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon, would have lived prior to and during the war. The story begins with their childhood, then diverges as each sister is led further and further apart in the ancient world. For those who are unfamiliar with classical texts like The Iliad, Heywood begins the novel with an opening epigraph to contextualize the events of Daughters of Sparta. I really love this addition because it makes the novel more accessible without having to read through any poetry or tragedies. Though I have read some classical texts, I think Daughters of Sparta stands on its own as a historical fiction novel rather than a retelling. Unfortunately, I do think this is the book’s detriment, as Heywood’s assertion that Daughters of Sparta aims to fill in the blanks of Helen and Klytemnestra’s stories is undermined by the book’s structure and characterization of well-known characters. The story spans decades, relying heavily on time jumps. While this can be done well, Heywood prioritizes telling the reader what happened during these time jumps within the text rather than writing scenes that further develop the protagonists. For me, this caused more questions about the characters, and was only worsened by the fact neither character seemed to grow through each new experience. Despite falling flat and lacking character growth, Helen and Klytemnesta do portray what life could have been like for Greek women. Heywood’s depiction of the sisters’ marriages offered insight into the lives of wealthy Greek women of the period. For example, Heywood imagines Helen struggling in her role as queen of Sparta and mother to her newborn daughter. Considering women were expected to become mothers, Helen’s conflict within the very role she has been destined to fill since birth questions the role of the idealized wife and mother of the period. Thematically, I had an issue with the way most characters were put into the category of good or bad without any ambiguity. One of my favourite things about the original texts is the way they can’t necessarily be analyzed from a modern perspective with the concept of good or evil. So to paint some characters as people who can do no wrong while others do bad things for no reason seemed to me as a disservice not only to the Greek texts, but also humans in general. One (non-spoiler) example of this is Klytemnestra’s relationship with her daughter Elektra. In the tragedy Elektra, Klytemnestra and her daughter have a tumultuous relationship to say the least, each spewing hatred towards the other throughout the play. Yet in the third person Daughters of Sparta, Klytemnestra seems like the perfect mother with a moody teenage daughter, lacking any of the tension that comes from imperfect characters. Rating 2.5/5: Though Daughters of Sparta answers some of the questions the original tragedies and epics fail to address, the novel raises more questions with its bland take on the classical world. Overall, Daughters of Sparta lacks the strength and power of its source material. I won’t go so far as to say it’s bad or completely unenjoyable as there are some interesting takes about women’s lives in the period, but Daughters of Sparta is dull in comparison to The Iliad, The Oresteia and The Eumenides. Given that this is a book about classical period wars, a trigger warning must be given for sexual assault, war brutality, and slavery. My Instagram

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jacqie

    Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review. I've always been fascinated by Greek mythology and also by women's history. This book was a natural for me. This is pure historical fiction- gods and magic are not active in this book. The book opens with Klytemnestra and Helen as children growing up in the Spartan palace. Quite a few historical fiction books seem to need to set the stage by having the reader first encounter the main characters as children and then have the reader w Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review. I've always been fascinated by Greek mythology and also by women's history. This book was a natural for me. This is pure historical fiction- gods and magic are not active in this book. The book opens with Klytemnestra and Helen as children growing up in the Spartan palace. Quite a few historical fiction books seem to need to set the stage by having the reader first encounter the main characters as children and then have the reader watch them grow up. I don't especially enjoy this technique, and in this case I thought the author had some trouble maturing her characters. Helen, especially, seemed childish and naive for most of the book. Part of what the author was trying to show, I think, is how noble women were kept out of the public eye and were sheltered. However, as princesses, I would think that both girls would have some training in politics- knowing who the major players were in their neighboring lands, what is expected of a queen (for both girls go on to become queens), diplomacy, and how to handle the men that would become their husbands. Neither Klytemnestra nor Helen seem to have any ideas about any of this. When Helen's father allows her to choose her husband, Helen makes her pick because Menelaus is Agamemnon's brother and she hopes to be able to see her sister after they are married (Klytemnestra has married Agamemnon at her father's behest). No other reason. No one even tries to tell her that it's unlikely that her plan will work, because married women rarely travel- this comes as a surprise to Helen. Would she really not know this? Neither girl has any friends or anyone to talk to when their husbands act in ways bewildering to these too-naive young women. Is Agamemnon having affairs? Klytemnestra isn't even sure most of the time. Helen has no idea how to have any relationship at all with Menelaus, who, to be fair, is equally stymied by the prospect of actually talking to his wife. Neither girl is at all prepared for sex with her husband. It felt more like the 1950's,when no one was allowed to talk about sex, than an era thousands of years ago when surely sex would have been seen differently (pre-Christian values and all that?). Helen of Troy (and Sparta) is one of the most famous women in history. This author chooses to portray her as a silly young girl who thinks that because she's pretty, she deserves everything. She falls for a smoothtalking stranger because her own husband doesn't show her the appreciation she wants, and her relationship with Menelaus is dead on the vine. Helen's end of the book felt quite unlikely to me. Klytemnestra is a "good girl" who tries to do all the right things, but is betrayed by her husband in a truly heinous way. In the end, she does rally to her revenge, but the mythic Klytemnestra, magnificent in her rage, and this book's Klytemnestra doggedly performing her queenly duties alone and hardly seeming to believe in her own plan for vengeance, seem far apart. I guess I wanted more from both of these characters. Klytemnestra needed more fire, I thought, and Helen needed to be a bit more grown-up- she gave no thought whatsoever to what it meant to be leaving with Paris. I did like the world itself- ancient Greece society was interesting and the background to Agamemnon and Menelaus's wives was more than I'd known. If this had been two ancient Greek women who didn't happen to be legendary, I might have liked the book more. In humanizing these women, the author diminished them even as she strove to understand what drove them.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    An engaging albeit frustrating novel about the lives of two iconic figures of Greek classics, Klytemnestra and Helen of Sparta. The latter is better known as Helen of Troy. Claire Heywood's "Daughters of Sparta" focuses on the two princesses from their childhood onward, giving each their own POV chapters. Klytemnestra, the elder of the two, is an exemplary princess for her time. Helen, for reasons Heywood explores later on, is the black sheep of her family. Or rather, the fair-haired sheep due to An engaging albeit frustrating novel about the lives of two iconic figures of Greek classics, Klytemnestra and Helen of Sparta. The latter is better known as Helen of Troy. Claire Heywood's "Daughters of Sparta" focuses on the two princesses from their childhood onward, giving each their own POV chapters. Klytemnestra, the elder of the two, is an exemplary princess for her time. Helen, for reasons Heywood explores later on, is the black sheep of her family. Or rather, the fair-haired sheep due to the hair color she does not share with any of her immediate family members. Marketing claims aside, there have been plenty of Trojan War retellings from Helen's point of view. However, Heywood's stands out as one that simultaneously gives Helen a positive character arc and a hopeful ending without doing away with her active participation in her elopement. This is a flawed, somewhat petulant Helen, but I appreciate that she comes across as more compelling than "likeable" beyond the narrow confines of what makes for a "nice" female character. Heywood also sidesteps a common, somewhat boring aspect of most Helen-centric retellings by humanizing Helen's husband Menelaus. In the end, they make each other better people, and I was pleasantly surprised by how their relationship evolved given the very rocky beginning. Klytemnestra's story, unfortunately, goes out of its way to scrub its heroine squeaky clean. Gone is the powerful queen who can hold down a kingdom in her husband's absence, who feels righteous fury at her daughter's murder, who defends her decisions even when she internally feels doubt, and who keeps the flame of vengeance burning for ten years until she can exact what she believes is justice. Nope, none of that. Instead, we get a meek, dutiful version of Klytemnestra who holds basically no power, whom no one respects, and who frets over whether she can bring herself to go through with any of her plans. (On a side note, both Helen and Klytemnestra lead strangely segregated lives. They have no wealthy female companions around, no local lords' wives, only women employed and/or enslaved at the palace. The emptiness in their social circle is puzzling.) Unlike the strong-willed Klytemnestra who occasionally vacillates in her plans, Heywood's Klytemnestra has to paint herself into a corner before she'll engage in the slightest bit of action. She doesn't feel jealousy or hatred, she doesn't begrudge anyone, and she can barely bring herself to go through with the climactic murder of Agamemnon (and let's not even touch the death of Cassandra, which gets fobbed off onto someone else so Klytemnestra can be appropriately appalled by the murder of an innocent). Whether one agrees or disagrees with Klytemnestra in the original material, you can't deny that she has strong convictions. This version of her does not. Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys retellings of ancient Greek classics. That being said, if you've read previous Trojan War & Oresteia novelizations or are looking for someone to embroider on the rich material from Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, or Euripides, this adaptation may fall a bit flat. Thank you to Penguin Group Dutton and Netgalley for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Grace W

    3.5 Not as good as other books in the same vein but still very well written. At this point a lot of these books feel like the same one and this one often felt like I had already read it. But I appreciated the parts of it that did feel new, like the fact that the gods never actually show up in this one, leaving the reader to wonder if they are real, just like the characters. TW for this book include: Rape, Death (including death of a parent and child), Miscarriage , Slavery, Violence, Infidelity, 3.5 Not as good as other books in the same vein but still very well written. At this point a lot of these books feel like the same one and this one often felt like I had already read it. But I appreciated the parts of it that did feel new, like the fact that the gods never actually show up in this one, leaving the reader to wonder if they are real, just like the characters. TW for this book include: Rape, Death (including death of a parent and child), Miscarriage , Slavery, Violence, Infidelity, Sexual assault, Sexual violence

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Dickey

    THIS WAS SO GOOD I am emotionally destroyed

  17. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Krivensky

    3.5ish- not as good as some of the other retellings (Song of Achilles, A Thousand Ships, The Silence of the Girls- I would recommend all over this one), but I did enjoy it. I just wanted a little bit more. Specifically more rage from Klytemnestra and more…something more exciting from Helen? Still worth the read though.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    Thank you Dutton books and goodreads for the free copy of this book. This greek tragedy is told by Klytemnestra and Helen. Though I have already heard the story in various forms, I found that I didn't want it to end. It was told of the women's feelings though it wasn't descriptive of people or places. Most lovers of historical fiction especially told from a woman's point of view should enjoy this novel. Thank you Dutton books and goodreads for the free copy of this book. This greek tragedy is told by Klytemnestra and Helen. Though I have already heard the story in various forms, I found that I didn't want it to end. It was told of the women's feelings though it wasn't descriptive of people or places. Most lovers of historical fiction especially told from a woman's point of view should enjoy this novel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zarina

    I love a retelling of ancient fairy tales, legends, folklore, and mythology. Circe by Madeline Miller is one of my all-time favourites, so I was thrilled when I saw Daughters of Sparta by Claire Hewood focuses on the story of Helen of Troy (or Helen of Sparta, as she was originally known). Many people will be familiar with the love story of Helen and Paris that led to the Troyan war, but up until now there’s been little information on Helen’s life before that point – and what led her down that p I love a retelling of ancient fairy tales, legends, folklore, and mythology. Circe by Madeline Miller is one of my all-time favourites, so I was thrilled when I saw Daughters of Sparta by Claire Hewood focuses on the story of Helen of Troy (or Helen of Sparta, as she was originally known). Many people will be familiar with the love story of Helen and Paris that led to the Troyan war, but up until now there’s been little information on Helen’s life before that point – and what led her down that path. Heywood’s novel takes readers on an insightful journey from Helen’s childhood to her marriage to Menelaos to her love affair with Paris, and – ultimately – to the war between the Troyans and the Spartans. Reading about Helen growing up alongside her sister Klytemnestra, makes her feel much more real and vulnerable, rather than a figurehead that involuntarily sparked a war. And set amongst the customs and behaviours of ancient Greece, where girls are married off to strangers as young teenagers, slaves roam the palaces to serve the royals, and girls are stolen from their rightful homes to become concubines, it paints an enlightening picture of being a woman during that time. Reading about these practices with a 21st century mindset makes them seem so uncivilised and harrowing, yet the women in the novel – even those of higher ranking – mostly comply without protest, not knowing any better. It doesn’t flip the narrative of the story as much as Circe did, as it does not make Helen and her sister the empowering leads of the novel that were the calculated driving forces behind the myth (as I had expected). But set within the time and context of the choices they make for themselves and those they care about, it still gives them far more depth, propelling them above how we’ve seen them up until now. One thing I would say is that I was awaiting the famous Troyan horse sequence all throughout reading the novel. It is, arguably, the most famous part of the Troyan war and I was curious to see Helen’s experience of this. Unfortunately this famous moment does not get its own moment to shine, and so I am still wanting to know more about this part of the myth. A follow-up novella perhaps? One can only hope. Nonetheless, Heywood’s writing is intriguing and fast-paced, and although some of the storyline developments were quite shocking (as they so often are in myths), she made them work with carefully plotted character developments, so they didn’t feel quite so out of the blue. I absolutely raced through this read, hanging onto the story as we got to know Helen and Klytemnestra, and their faithful journeys. And even after turning the final page, these two incredible characters didn’t leave me. I ended up going to Wikipedia to read up on how their lives supposedly continued where the novel finished. And when a book can keep you so hooked that even after finishing it, it doesn’t let you go – you know it’s been a good one. 4.5 stars

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I’ve been enjoying Greek mythology retellings lately and this was no exception. Told from the viewpoints of Princesses Helen & Klytemenestra of Sparta it touches on their childhood and then moves through their lives as Queens to 2 Kings of Greece Agamemnon and Menelaos. I knew nothing of Klytemenestra so it was interesting to hear of her life. Everyone knows Helen of Troy of course. But it was interesting to imagine what it was like for her, why she turned to Paris & left her life as Queen and w I’ve been enjoying Greek mythology retellings lately and this was no exception. Told from the viewpoints of Princesses Helen & Klytemenestra of Sparta it touches on their childhood and then moves through their lives as Queens to 2 Kings of Greece Agamemnon and Menelaos. I knew nothing of Klytemenestra so it was interesting to hear of her life. Everyone knows Helen of Troy of course. But it was interesting to imagine what it was like for her, why she turned to Paris & left her life as Queen and what it was like through all the years of war partly because of her. It was a fast & fun read and I definitely enjoyed it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    I had hopes for this book after reading the author's information and I love any historical work set during this period of time. However, I was disappointed. Despite advertised statements of the high caliber of writing, there is no way that this author should be compared to Madeline Miller of Circe or The Song of Achilles. This is not to say that Heywood is a poor writer because overall she is does well. I must also say that she had no glaring errors and maintained a sequential story line with no I had hopes for this book after reading the author's information and I love any historical work set during this period of time. However, I was disappointed. Despite advertised statements of the high caliber of writing, there is no way that this author should be compared to Madeline Miller of Circe or The Song of Achilles. This is not to say that Heywood is a poor writer because overall she is does well. I must also say that she had no glaring errors and maintained a sequential story line with no confusion or problems. I really appreciated that in a review book. However, Heywood was unable to capture the language, the mood, the behaviors, and the internal musing of people during this period of time. Rather the writing was "modern" in style, using today's vernacular structures and word choices. I found this very disconcerting. The layout of the back and forth chapters between the two sisters was handled deftly but in some ways I think that the author struggled to find the reason why Helen left her husband. Maybe Heywood was trying to find a new slant to the story in the quest to be original. It is a light read and there is probably an audience out there for it. I did read this as a review book from Netgalley and I was quite surprised that there is not the option to provide a review of the book upon completion.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kelsea

    This book kept me interested from the first page and offers a fresh perspective of the lives and hardships faced by Helen and Klytemnestra, the wives of prominent Trojan War figures Agamemnon and Menelaus. Knowing the history behind the characters, I knew going into it that it would be a book that made me sad, but the author left the book ending in such a way that it was not as sad as I was expecting it to be. The only thing I didn't care for as much in the book was the massive time jumps. I und This book kept me interested from the first page and offers a fresh perspective of the lives and hardships faced by Helen and Klytemnestra, the wives of prominent Trojan War figures Agamemnon and Menelaus. Knowing the history behind the characters, I knew going into it that it would be a book that made me sad, but the author left the book ending in such a way that it was not as sad as I was expecting it to be. The only thing I didn't care for as much in the book was the massive time jumps. I understand why it might have been necessary, but I happily would have read more about the in-between-times and had a more fleshed out novel with a gradual shifting of time than the constant jumps forward. I think it helps to know the history before reading the novel but I don't think it's necessary to know it to enjoy the book. Overall, I would recommend this book to read and I would purchase it for my library.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Silvia

    Rating: 4.5 / 5 "She wondered why she had been so desperate to become a woman. How stupid she had been. Womanhood was strange and painful and humiliating. And there was no going back." Ohhhhh boy, what a book. I would start with a warning. Do not read this book if you want to keep one iota of hope in the male species. Because believe me, it gets destroyed. Goes up in flame. Puff. Say goodbye to any form of respect you might have for men. Yes, yes. I know it's fiction. But you know what they say, Rating: 4.5 / 5 "She wondered why she had been so desperate to become a woman. How stupid she had been. Womanhood was strange and painful and humiliating. And there was no going back." Ohhhhh boy, what a book. I would start with a warning. Do not read this book if you want to keep one iota of hope in the male species. Because believe me, it gets destroyed. Goes up in flame. Puff. Say goodbye to any form of respect you might have for men. Yes, yes. I know it's fiction. But you know what they say, right? If it walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck. So it doesn't matter if it is fiction, because I bet any woman reading this can relate to Clytemnestra and Helen's feelings. Somehow. In some way. Even the walls know by now how much I love anything to do with greek mythology. Like in The Song of Achilles, I knew the stories of Helen and Clytemnestra, of kings Agamemnon and Menelaus, of Paris and Troy. What I didn't know was how much it would get me to read the story from the women's perspectives. The voices that throughout the book should be meek, should be quiet, should live, function and breathe in relation to their husbands only. Those voices are loud and unapologetic. Even when they make mistakes. Because believe me, I did not like Helen either, but you don't need to like her to understand, to show compassion for this girl who's loneliness is so intense it's taken as an excuse by men to cause a war. As much as I loved the women, there was not even a single man I liked. Maybe Hector. And maybe because his story was not detailed enough for me to hate him. Eh. Even if some men show blips of redemption, even when the things they do don't come strictly from an evil place, it wasn't enough to not make me angry. Overall, a good book I recommend if you like retellings and mythology. Let the women speak, go listen to what they have to say. "What did men ever sacrifice fo the sake of a woman?" *I received a copy of this book from Hodder&Stoughton in exchange for an honest review* - Ohhhh ragazzi, che storia. Comincio con un avvertimento. Non leggete questo libro se volete mantenere una piccolissima parvenza di speranza negli esseri umani di sesso maschile. Perché credetemi, questo libro ve la distrugge. Puff. Terra bruciata. Dite ciao ad ogni rispetto che potete avere per un uomo. Sì sì, lo so che è fiction. Ma le cose che vengono dette e come sono presentate sono tutto tranne che elementi di fantasia. Scommetto che non c'è una donna che leggendo questo libro non provi orrore per quello che sta succedendo a Clitennestra ed Elena. Anche i muri sanno quanto mi piace la mitologia greca. Come in "La canzone di Achille", conoscevo le storie e le leggende, i personaggi, conoscevo Clitennestra ed Elena, Agamennone e Menelao, Paride, la guerra di Troia. Quello che non mi aspettavo era quanto mi potesse colpire leggere queste cose dal punto di vista femminile. Le voci di queste donne che dovrebbero essere sottomesse, invisibili, che dovrebbero vivere e respirare solo in funzione dei loro mariti, queste voci fanno rumore e non chiedono scusa. Anche quando commettono errori. Perché credetemi, la figura di Elena non mi piace, ma il punto è che Elena non deve piacerti per essere compresa, per provare compassione verso questa ragazza sola e sperduta, così disperata che un suo tentativo estremo di vivere, di essere felice, viene usato come scusa dagli uomini per causare una guerra. Ho amato le donne, e allo stesso modo ho odiato ogni figura maschile. Forse salvo solo Ettore, e forse lo salvo perché la sua storia non è andata così in profondità da farmelo odiare. Eh. Anche quando gli uomini mostrano un piccolo barlume di speranza, di redenzione, non era comunque abbastanza per farmi dimenticare la rabbia e impotenza che provavo nei loro confronti. Un libro molto bello che consiglio a tutti quelli che amano retelling e mitologia. Lasciate parlare le donne, ascoltate quello che dicono.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura Dimmett

    This review contains spoilers. The ARC was granted with NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. If you are looking for a version of the Trojan War from the Iliad and the Greek dramas that is in any way romanticized, this is not the version of the story for you. Told from the points of view of Klytemnestra and Helen, sisters who were integral to the Trojan War both at Troy and home in Greece, the author portrays a time in which people believe the gods are real, but the autho This review contains spoilers. The ARC was granted with NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. If you are looking for a version of the Trojan War from the Iliad and the Greek dramas that is in any way romanticized, this is not the version of the story for you. Told from the points of view of Klytemnestra and Helen, sisters who were integral to the Trojan War both at Troy and home in Greece, the author portrays a time in which people believe the gods are real, but the author makes it very clear that it's really the humans in the story driving the narrative. I don't think I've ever read a version that so successfully eliminated every divine act so successfully and attributed the character and plot development to patriarchal oppression, violence, greed, and ambition. . What that takes out of the story turns out to be quite significant. Helen is not really the daughter of Zeus, come to Queen Leda in the form of a swan. She's actually the result of an implied gang rape that her parents try to cover by letting the Zeus rumor spread. As a result, Helen's mother hates the sight of her, and Helen's life choices end up cycling through trying to be loved by those who don't love her and withholding her love from those who could love her. . Paris was not given the most beautiful woman in the world because of his role in a dispute among goddesses. He's a selfish pretty boy who saw Helen as a prize rather than a person. In Margaret George's version of these events, the tragedy lies in knowing that Helen and Paris' once-in-a-lifetime ' love will eventually destroy Troy, and that Helen will regret his loss for the rest of her life. This is a traditional view, but Clare Heywood sees the real tragedy in the fact that to Helen in particular, none of this was really worth it. She eventually realizes Paris' shallowness and that the grand love was never real. She bears the brunt of the shame and blame, a position that she grows to find almost comfortable. Misery is almost safer than having her hopes up because any grasping of happiness has ended disastrously due to her own self-destructive behavior and the vices of others. Klytemnestra's contribution to the narrative is to show that being the obedient good girl to your husband doesn't make life much easier. Most versions have Agamemnon forced to sacrifice Klytemnestra's first born Iphigenia on order from the gods to receive favorable winds to Troy. However, Heywood proposes the idea that the seer who told Agamemnon "the will of the gods" was actually seeking vengeance for a wrong Agamemnon had committed against his family years earlier. Klytemnestra knows the gods have no blame in this except perhaps in not intervening. She knows her daughter's murder is the result of vengeance and Agamemnon's ambition. Her failure to forgive her husband for the loss of her child and her defiance of the "will of the gods" become much more understandable. Her reputation as the false wife and villainess crumbles. What we are left with is one of the more historical fictionalized accounts of the Trojan War., but it' s just as tragic, because everything that unfolds is due to character flaws in those who had potential to be, even if not great, very good.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annelies - In Another Era

    Helen and Klythemnestra are the daughters of the Spartan king Tyndareos and his wife queen Leda. When rumours start to circulate around Helen’s birth Klythemnestra, although being the eldest, is forced to marry king Agamemnon of Mycenae. Helen becomes the heir of Sparta and her father receives all the kings of Greece to compete for her hand. The choice falls upon Menelaos, Agamemnon’s brother. Neither marriage will be happy and both sisters will be drawn into the huge conflict of the Trojan War. Helen and Klythemnestra are the daughters of the Spartan king Tyndareos and his wife queen Leda. When rumours start to circulate around Helen’s birth Klythemnestra, although being the eldest, is forced to marry king Agamemnon of Mycenae. Helen becomes the heir of Sparta and her father receives all the kings of Greece to compete for her hand. The choice falls upon Menelaos, Agamemnon’s brother. Neither marriage will be happy and both sisters will be drawn into the huge conflict of the Trojan War. I love Greek myth retellings, that’s no secret. Having already read Colm Toibin’s ‘House of Names’ where Klythemnestra and her children appear as main characters, I was curious to see how Heywood would tell her story. Both Helen and Klythemnestra are demonized women. One being the girl that launched a thousand ships and caused the destruction of Troy, the other a husband killer. ‘Daughters of Sparta‘ tells the story of the sisters from their youth as happy princesses in their fathers palace until right after the siege of Troy. I’m in general no fan of the Helen and Paris storyline. But Heywood manages to create some sympathy for Helen, at least until Paris arrives. Then it goes all so fast and her decision is made as quickly as the choice of how she will dress. Klythemnestra’s story takes us to the Greek shores where she tries to stop her husband killing her daughter Iphigenia as a sacrifice for the Gods. Still, Heywood tries to create a woman who is in pain but not full of revenge. This works to a certain extend, but I missed the fury and hate I imagine when thinking about Klythemnestra. I think the main problem with this novel is maybe that Heywood tries to paint their lives as them being just normal women. She also focuses on their unhappy relationship with their husbands. This implies that she omits certain things from the classic story, especially once we are in Troy. No Achilles, almost no Hector, no Apollo and a Cassandra that doesn’t speak out about her visions. But still the fall of Troy took my breath away. I always hope this story will end differently, but of course it never does. The cruel fate of the women is again described vividly and gave me goosebumps (and reminded me of Pat Barker’s ‘Silence of the girls’). Maybe, this isn’t the best retelling. But Heywood writes straightforward and can set a small foot next to Miller and Barker in my opinion. Daughters of Sparta takes a moderate approach towards two sisters whose stories have never been told that way. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher to provide me with a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion. Dutch review: Helen en Klythemnestra zijn de dochters van de Spartaanse koning en koningin Leda. Al vroeg in hun leven duiken er geruchten op over de afkomst van Helen, waardoor Nestra als oudste wordt uitgehuwelijkt aan koning Agamemnon van Mykene. Helen wordt de erfgename en alle koningen van Griekenland komen om haar hand dingen. De keuze valt op Menelaos, de broer van Agamemnon. De zussen zullen elkaar nooit meer zien, maar meegesleept worden in een groots conflict dat hun mannen zal brengen tot aan de muren van Troy. Ik hou van dit soort hervertellingen van de Ilias. In dit boek komen we meer te weten over de jeugd en vroege jaren van twee zussen die niet met de beste reputatie uit het verhaal komen: Klythemnestra en Helen. Helena is allesbehalve iemand die ik zelf goedgezind ben. Ik vond de hele liefde rond Helen en Paris namelijk nooit echt interessant en heb de liefde er nog nooit weten afspatten. Daughters of Sparta doet een goede poging om een menselijke Helen neer te zetten. Tot Paris in het spel komt, dan kan ik geen sympathie meer opbrengen. Ze is de zogezegd mooiste vrouw van Griekenland die in een ongelukkig huwelijk beland en dan maar vlucht met de eerste de beste. Niet nadenkend over de gevolgen. Maar langs de andere kant, mocht een man hetzelfde doen, er zou geen haan naar gekraaid hebben... Dus ik probeer toch met een zeker sympathie naar Helen te blijven kijken. Ik heb altijd meer interesse gehad in het verhaal van Klythemnestra. De scènes rond de dood van Iphigenia deden me slikken en zorgden ervoor dat ik haar meer kon begrijpen, net als in 'house of names' van Toibin. Ik zou mijn man ook vermoord hebben dan. Maar toch zat de kracht van het verhaal weer in de hoofdstukken rond de val van Troje. En dan vooral het lot van de vrouwen achteraf. Ook al is het een verhaal, ik hoop telkens dat het anders gaat uitdraaien. Dat Troje een keer wint, wie schrijft dat verhaal eens? Enfin, zeker een goede hervertelling in de stijl van een Barker en Miller. Graag gelezen. Bedankt aan Netgalley en de uitgever voor een exemplaar van dit boek in ruil voor mijn eerlijke mening.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sanna

    "She wondered why she had been so desperate to become a woman. How stupid she had been. Womanhood was strange and painful and humiliating. And there was no going back." 3⭐️ Daughters of Sparta is a retelling of the events leading to the Trojan War and the war itself, from the perspective of Helen of Troy and her infamous sister, Klytemnestra. I was excited to start this as I am a fan of The Iliad and always appreciate a feminist retelling. I did like the book overall but it was underwhelming for m "She wondered why she had been so desperate to become a woman. How stupid she had been. Womanhood was strange and painful and humiliating. And there was no going back." 3⭐️ Daughters of Sparta is a retelling of the events leading to the Trojan War and the war itself, from the perspective of Helen of Troy and her infamous sister, Klytemnestra. I was excited to start this as I am a fan of The Iliad and always appreciate a feminist retelling. I did like the book overall but it was underwhelming for me. It was well-written and easy to read but it felt like there were many scenes missing and a lack of character depth. For as much as we read about both sisters, neither had very defining personalities, aside from their attitudes to motherhood. I felt like creative liberties could have been taken to make them more three-dimensional characters. I also wish we could have started the Trojan War part sooner. I know the importance of establishing their lives before the war but it did become repetitive. And once the war started, the events were quite rushed, including the sacking of Troy, which is a key moment that should've been explored more. However, I liked the book overall and it was interesting to read from different perspectives regardless. I didn't know much about Klytemnestra before so I liked learning more about her life. All in all, it was a solid debut novel by Claire Heywood and I am curious to see what she comes out with next. I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Starting out I was hesitant to invest my time in reading this book. It seemed like it was going to be yet another book in a long line of novels based on the Trojan War. I was happily proven wrong. This story follows the lives of two sisters, the famous Helen of Sparta, and Clytemnestra of Mycenae. The reader is introduced to both characters as young girls, and follows them through their marriages to powerful men, and the consequences of one ill fated choice that led to the war between Greece and Starting out I was hesitant to invest my time in reading this book. It seemed like it was going to be yet another book in a long line of novels based on the Trojan War. I was happily proven wrong. This story follows the lives of two sisters, the famous Helen of Sparta, and Clytemnestra of Mycenae. The reader is introduced to both characters as young girls, and follows them through their marriages to powerful men, and the consequences of one ill fated choice that led to the war between Greece and Troy. It was refreshing to read about Helen and Clytemnestra from their own perspectives, instead of relegating their story to brief mentions of their names told from the viewpoint of men. It was great to get a glimpse of how girls and women were treated during ancient times, how their lives were entirely in the hands of the men around them, and what their thoughts and opinions might have been about the events taking place. Motherhood, death, marriage, and war were told from their perspective and how their lives were tangled together with the men who controlled their fate. I admit that the story started off slowly but as the girls married, and the war loomed on the horizon things quickly got interesting. What really struck me about this book was that the reader could really sympathize with the plight of both Helen and Clytemnestra, and it really hit home how women were confined to the life that their husbands set forth for them. Usually books villainize Helen for her decision to flee Sparta for Troy, but it really focused on how vulnerable, confined, and unhappy she was with her life. I highly recommend this book to lovers of Ancient History and Women's History because of the fresh take on a well known tale that is inspiring when the reader thinks about how far women have come in the present day.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    3,5 stars This was a super-compelling read about misogyny in ancient Greece yet easily relatable to current times and emphasizing women and girls caring for each other though the lack of diversity is grating again, as is making every man unlikeable. The dual POVs of two sisters is well done. Klytemnestra is obviously the more enjoyable of the two, with her journey from perfect princess, daughter, sister, wife, mother and queen to the infamous character she's known as quite understandable. Helen i 3,5 stars This was a super-compelling read about misogyny in ancient Greece yet easily relatable to current times and emphasizing women and girls caring for each other though the lack of diversity is grating again, as is making every man unlikeable. The dual POVs of two sisters is well done. Klytemnestra is obviously the more enjoyable of the two, with her journey from perfect princess, daughter, sister, wife, mother and queen to the infamous character she's known as quite understandable. Helen is rather frustrating, air-headed and egoistic, though probably intentionally so instead of excusing her. Yet her desperation about having to keep her wish for birth control hidden feels very real. The last quarter about the troian war itself is a let down. After all the details of the sisters' lives, it feels very rushed and the troian characters don't have much character at all. Maybe that story has been told enough times, but squeezing it in isn't the solution either. This book avoids decidedly supernatural influence: whether the olympians are real, neither we nor the characters know which means some changes to the legend but it works well enough here.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Lepic

    This book is a collection of trendy writing tropes with not a lot of style or substance to justify it. The first trope is the “retelling a historical tale from a woman’s perspective” which is obviously a worthwhile endeavour when done effectively but right now is so overdone it’s bordering on the trite and feels especially contrived here. The second is the “two different parallel tales” which is fine if there’s some reason to have both (eg some kind of symbolic interweaving or near misses or wha This book is a collection of trendy writing tropes with not a lot of style or substance to justify it. The first trope is the “retelling a historical tale from a woman’s perspective” which is obviously a worthwhile endeavour when done effectively but right now is so overdone it’s bordering on the trite and feels especially contrived here. The second is the “two different parallel tales” which is fine if there’s some reason to have both (eg some kind of symbolic interweaving or near misses or whatever) but there was no such reason here and it really just highlighted that each story alone couldn’t carry the book. All of this would be forgivable if there were some glorious writing or great connection to the characters but the writing was a bit unsubtle, very bash you over the head with the underlying point and the characters were not especially sympathetic / compelling. A pleasant enough flight read / bar distraction but not much more.

  30. 5 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    I don't know about anyone else but I have been LOVING the flood of mythological retellings from women's perspectives lately. This was another great addition to the genre, putting a new spin on the Siege of Troy story by giving us Helen and her sister Klytemnestra's perspectives. These two Sparta princesses are separated at young ages, sent to marry powerful men and go on to be queens in their own right. Their lives of privilege and beauty don't automatically bring happiness though and both women I don't know about anyone else but I have been LOVING the flood of mythological retellings from women's perspectives lately. This was another great addition to the genre, putting a new spin on the Siege of Troy story by giving us Helen and her sister Klytemnestra's perspectives. These two Sparta princesses are separated at young ages, sent to marry powerful men and go on to be queens in their own right. Their lives of privilege and beauty don't automatically bring happiness though and both women suffer from loneliness, marital strife and heartbreak. Highly recommended for fans of Circe, Ariadne and A thousand ships. Favorite quote: "She wondered why she had been so desperate to become a woman. How stupid she had been. Womanhood was strange and painful and humiliating and there was no going back."

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