Book Tour Review: Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Title: Helen of Sparta
Author: Amalia Carosella
Genre: mythic fiction, historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 416
Published: April 1 2016
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4.5/5

Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

The life of (and war for) Helen of Troy, as she is more famously known, makes for excellent, and dramatic story fodder. Numerous authors have given her well-known tale new voices and interpretations in the thousands of years since her name was first heard, but Amalia Carosella's version here of both the person and the legend in Helen of Sparta is both inspired and noteworthy. So many tales use Helen as a plot piece or as a reason for Agamemnon to conveniently use, but Carosella's is a novel entirely about her, the person. It's wonderful to see a version of Helen that gets to be less passive and more active in her own life. Spanning a far-too-short of time period, this historical fiction novel is a fresh and detailed character-driven read.

This author chose to begin the story before Helen's infamous marriage(s), before Paris; it instead focuses on Helen's early adulthood in Sparta and Athens. It's alluded to in the title, but it's inherently Carosella sees Helen as much more than a pretext for war or a possession made for a king (or Prince) and her novel shows it. Though Helen's beauty is always part of the discussion when it comes to this particular historical figure, Carosella develops her character into much more than just a pretty face. She's a smart, giving, and intelligent woman. Her choices are like any others -- made of mistakes and fear. It's easy to care about this strong character because Carosella develops her into a well-rounded and three-dimensional person. Helen carries this novel, and her first person narration chapters are the ones that worked best.

I liked the originality that Helen of Sparta brought to the table throughout the entire four hundred pages. Not many novels about Troy or Helen really concern themselves with her life before marrying Menelaus and running away, willingly or not, with Paris, or even before Tyndareus hosted her suitors in her early/mid teens. But that is happily not the case here. Amalia Carosella has envisioned a fully believable version of what Helen's life could have looked like. Even the setting benefits from the same authentic creativity shown elsewhere; Sparta, and later Athens, are each wonderfully rendered with careful detail and attention.  

For all that Helen is remembered for an epic, decade-long war, this is not a book all that concerned with action or fighting. It's a character-driven and slower-paced novel; a thorough examination and imagination of what could have been for Helen and Theseus. Alternating between her's first person narration and Theseus's third person allows a lot of room to imagine their lives, but can also highlight the fact that it's also a work of fiction. Helen of Sparta had also better have a sequel on the way because the abrupt ending is one of the few unfortunate aspects of this novel. That ending was surprisingly frustrating. However, I hope to see Carosella further deliver on the promise shown here with this novel.

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Helen of Sparta Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, April 1
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, April 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, April 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Saturday, April 4
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, April 6
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, April 7
Spotlight at

Wednesday, April 8
Review at Historical Reads and Views

Thursday, April 9
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Friday, April 10
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Monday, April 13
Interview at Book Babe
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Tuesday, April 14
Review at Forever Ashley

Wednesday, April 15
Review at Just One More Chapter
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, April 16
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, April 17
Review at Impressions in Ink

Monday, April 20
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Interview at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 21
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, April 22
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

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