on June 1, 2007
Probably all most of us know about the ancient figure of Helen of Troy is the famous quote about "the face that launched a thousand ships." In NOBODY'S PRINCESS, Esther Friesner, a prolific and well-respected fantasy writer, fearlessly takes on the formidable task of turning Helen into a flesh-and-blood girl, with her own hopes, dreams and ambitions.
In Friesner's take on ancient tales, Helen is a Bronze Age princess of the brave, warlike Spartan people. Destined to be queen (the Spartan succession was matrilineal) and told from an early age that her beauty far outshines that of her sister Clytemnestra, Helen is convinced that there must be more to life than spinning wool, weaving cloth and accepting the hand of a worthy suitor in marriage. In fact, even as a child, Helen exhibits the kind of fierce independence, stubbornness and bravery that will serve her well as queen.
As a young girl, Helen decides three things:
"Even if I was pretty, it wasn't going to be enough to bring me the life I wanted: one where I was free to make choices that mattered, one where people listened to what I had to say.
Aphrodite had the beauty; Zeus had the thunderbolts. Everyone loved Aphrodite, but everyone listened to Zeus.
I'd never get my hands on a thunderbolt, so if I wanted to be free, I'd better find a way to get my hands on the next best thing: a sword."
Through the rest of Friesner's novel, Helen sets out to accomplish these goals. From teaching herself to run as swiftly as a rabbit to obtaining secret sword lessons to receiving hunting training from her mother, Helen is determined to be no ordinary princess. Soon she is using her new skills (combined with her strong heritage and her intrinsic tenacity) to reshape her world as she sees fit, regardless of what her society might say. Her strong personality continues to grow and take shape right up to the abrupt ending. But stay tuned, since the sequel, NOBODY'S PRIZE, is due to be published in 2008.
In her extensive author's note, Friesner reveals how much of her novel is based on preexisting sources. The answer? Not much, since Helen is rarely mentioned in literature outside of THE ILIAD and a handful of other apocryphal tales, and virtually nothing is known of her early life. This gives Friesner a nearly-blank slate in which to set her tale. That being said, however, the author does ground her story in ancient history, introducing actual customs, details of daily life and political struggles into her narrative.
Helen's story is so compelling that readers will find themselves rethinking her long-held image as merely a beautiful woman and a passive prize of the Trojan War. Instead, in Friesner's exhilarating, thought-provoking retelling, Helen proves that beauty is far more than just skin deep.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
on December 15, 2007
This is my favorite book! It is well written exciting and funny. I like how the author shows Helen as more then just a pretty face. In this book Helen learns to fight, and ride. She isn't just going to sit around all the time a let everyone else have a the action. No, she is going to go out there and do it for herself! This is a great story for girls of all ages! I would say 12 to adult will like this book!!
on March 30, 2008
This book starts out with Helen as a child, and it's obvious from the very beginning that she's a very questioning girl. She doesn't like her role as princess. As she gets older, what she wants is to be strong. She wants to hunt and train with her brothers, and she never wants to get married. Helen only wants to be a strong queen, instead of sitting inside and acting like a lady.
I really think that Helen is a witty, strong, and manipulative main character. Throughout the book, she is always trying to find ways to get through her dilemas to get what she wants, and more often than not she succeeds. I also think that many readers can relate to her, and she's complex, which I love.
That being said, I still don't think this book was what it could have been. The idea was good, but the whole book fell somewhat short of my expectations. I expected there to be a bit more to it. I know there's going to be a sequel very soon, but I still expected the end to have some sort of closure. The book in it's entirety just seemed kind of dull. I couldn't even tell if there was some sort of specific plotline. Nobody's Princess wasn't bad, by all means, but the writing seemed flat and nothing really jumped out at me to keep reading. Nevertheless, I still plan on reading Nobody's Prize when it comes out.
on May 12, 2008
Helen of Sparta, more commonly called Helen of Troy, who possessed the face that launched a thousand ships. But who might she have been before her abduction started the ten year Trojan War? Esther Friesner attempts to find out.
Summarizing this book is pretty much useless since it doesn't really have much of a plot. That's not to say it's boring because it isn't. I really enjoyed it. But it's just one series of adventures after another and seems to be setting up for the sequel, Nobody's Prize, which releases later this month.
This book is about Helen. It's driven by her character and what her character does. Mainly, the action is centered around Helen's determination to be who she is, a girl who hates spinning and loves adventure, nearly impossible in a world where women spin and the men scorn huntresses and female warriors as something unnatural. Helen's not unnatural, though; she's just got attitude.
And she does. Sass and spunk and smarts all rolled into a gangly girl who certainly wouldn't believe you if you told her she'd grow up to be the most beautiful woman in the world and responsible for the start of a war.
If Helen were any less lively, this book would only be so-so. Yes, for the most part, I liked the writing and the descriptions and Helen's escapades were highly amusing. But the other characters...either seemed flat, stereotypical, or were in two chapters and then disappeared for the rest of the book. Yes, this book is a good look at life in Ancient Ancient Greece (as Friesner points out in the afterword, Helen lived during the Bronze Age, almost 2500 years ago, whereas the Greek philosophers and all that stuff were a thousand years after Helen's lifetime), but that's not the draw of this novel. Helen is.
on October 8, 2011
I really enjoyed the first part of this book. It drew me in quickly and was very interesting. I was worried that as an adult, I wouldn't appreciate this book as much since it's written for young teens, but that ended up not being an issue. It doesn't read like a teen novel typically does. It was really interesting to imagine Helen as a real person and as someone who was more than just a pretty face.
However, as the novel went on, I felt my interest waning. During her travels, I kept looking forward to when she would go back home because the story was so wonderful and rich while she was in Sparta, but the majority of the book is set in other locations where it just loses something. The ending was so remarkably anti-climatic that I was initially in complete disbelief that it was the end of the book. Granted, there is a sequel, but the first book didn't even end in such a way that I even care about reading the sequel.
Throughout the book, I kept thinking about what the circumstances would be for this Helen to end up married to Menelaus and run away (or be kidnapped) by Paris to start the Trojan War. Unfortunately, it seems clear from the description of the sequel that we will never find those answers, which is a big disappointment to me. I understand the author wanted to tell the story "before" the story that everyone knows, but this ended up feeling like a story about some random girl because I can't seem to match up the Helen from this story with the Helen she supposedly would become. If the author had taken the next step and continued Helen's journey, this would be a much different review.
All in all though, this seems like a great book for young teens. If you happen to be an adult that was drawn in because of the topic though, don't expect to be blown away.
on March 29, 2014
Helen is determined to be more than what people expect her to be, which is a princess of Sparta. She isn't willing to just sit at home and embroider. No she plans on taking her fate into her own hands and having as many adventures as possible.
Cute story. I picked it up as I love historical fiction and hadn't read much from the Grecian time period recently. And while I enjoyed it, I have to say its probably better for a young adult/teen reader. Bit to simple and not enough grit for me. As well, there was not really an ending to the book. Instead, it ends as a lead up to the next book, which was a bit disappointing.
on August 23, 2014
This is a pretty good read as long as you don't take it to seriously. It's a modern retelling and it's fun to read, not all of it is going to be historically accurate and Helen isn't meant to be the exact same one we read about in history books. But for someone who is mildly interested with this period of time and is okay with mock seriousness throughout the writing, you'll like it. I especially recommend it for fans of the Percy Jackson series.
Nobody's Princess is about Helen of Troy, and it starts at her very beginning in Sparta. From infancy when she spent time with her nurse maid, then as a young child sick of woman's obligations and wanting to learn hunting and fighting skills, then to the awkward teenager that knows how to hunt and kill but is still hungry for more adventure in her royal life.
The description of the book mentions that you'll be rooting for Helen and you will, because who doesn't admire a young heroine hell-bent on adventure? But I think we should all recall that despite her adventures heart she is still a princess, born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She is spoiled, bossy, and all of those other things that make a great villain to a story, but that's one of the reasons why I liked her. All of our heroines seem to be the same, beautiful, kind, and selfless. We need to shake it up some, and I think Helen did just that. She's beautiful, vain, and bossy with a sense of adventure.
I thought this was fun, mainly because of the historical insight from our main character. She talks about the many monsters of legend that we hear about today and believes none of it. She doesn't believe weaken men's boasting about killing minotaur's and the like, or that The Oracle of Delphi always knows what she's talking about. She questions thing, and it depletes a little of the fun from the old stories but I thought it was a nice addition to her character, and story a sense of something that could be mildly real or at least feel real.
Sometimes I felt like nothing was really happening with the story. There were chapters and chapters of her just getting calluses and avoiding her nurse maid because Helen just wanted to fight. It made the book on occasion boring.
The book takes place all over the mythical world, all the country's most of us will never be able to visit. So the setting is always changing, always leaving us wondering what's around the corner for our heroine.
on February 14, 2012
Nobody's Princess (Princess of Myth) by Esther Friesner follows the story of Helen of Sparta who itches for more out of life. She's not one to sit by and count on the gods to take care of her, so she sets out to get what she wants with a sassy attitude. However, that attitude can also get her into trouble and cause a few enemies.
On the one hand, it was a pretty good read and on the other hand, it had some flaws. It was a very quick read, so that's always a plus. I loved the theme and setting since I love my history - even more when it's Greek history and there's Greek Gods involved.
However, there were a few issues as well. Most of the characters were flat and the MC seemed a bit whiny and too perfect. Pretty much close to a Mary Sue, if not one already. I mean, she happens to excel at everything more than her brothers? Yeah, okay... Of course, this novel also teaches that girls aren't girls unless they act like men and fight.
It was a predictable plot and it wasn't done in an interesting or different way. It was the standard, stereotypical way. Still, it wasn't like it was horrible to read. It was a quick read that wasn't too bad.
on August 1, 2009
Helen is the beautiful princess of Sparta, yet even as a young girl she never acts like your typical princess. While Aphrodite is her favorite goddess, she questions the authenticity of the gods. She would much rather learn the art of the sword with her older brothers than learn how to sew with her twin sister Clytemnestra. Instead of day dreaming about marriage, Helen's mind wanders to dreams of being a hero and fighting till the death. She understands that one day she is to be the Queen of Sparta, but has no interest in it at the present. Finally Helen gets the opportunity to go on a journey, not your typical heroic journey but a journey none the less. She and her brothers are to accompany Clytemnestra to Mykenae for her betrothal to Prince Tantalus. After the wedding feasts she is expected to go home, but then word comes that her mother's sister's kingdom, Calydon, is suffering from a menacing wild boar running around the kingdom. Her brothers know they must go help and Helen convinces them to take her with them - after all she hasn't seen her Aunt in a long while. While in Calydon Helen meets Atalanta, a girl determined to be a hero just like her. The only difference is Atalanta has a lot more experience and everyone knows of her dream of heroism, unlike Helen's whom no one except her brothers and mother know about. After a wild visit in Calydon, Helen's adventures take her to Delphi where she meets the Pythia who prophesizes about the future. What will her future behold? Will she go back to Sparta, or will she be able to realize her dreams?
What a wonderful book! Don't you just love the cover? Esther Friesner did an amazing job combining myth, history, and fiction into one awesome book. Helen is such strong character and knows what she wants. She won't be put down just because she is a girl, which is a characteristic that is phenomenal. Reading about Helen made me realize no matter who we are we can achieve what ever we want as long as we are persistent and believe in ourselves. I have always been a sucker for Greek mythology. Nobody's Princess not only takes the story of Helen, but also ties in tidbits from other myths like Jason and the Argonauts. I liked how these little tidbits were folded in and became part of the story. All in all this was a great book and would recommend it to any girl, or guy, but especially girls because of the feministic message.
on April 30, 2014
This story felt far too "I am woman. Hear me roar." for my taste. I don't see why Helen needed to follow her brothers for the Golden Fleece. She seemed to be trying too hard to pack heroes into the story. Helen is a brat of a character. Clytemnestra is worse (and marries the wrong guy for no apparent reason). Nothing about it thrilled me, and I won't be reading the second one.