Nobody’s Princess – Book Review
Esther M. Friesner
YA Historical Fantasy
Nobody’s Princess Book #1
She is beautiful, she is a princess, and Aphrodite is her favourite Goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Not one to count on the Gods – or her looks – to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with steely determination and a sassy attitude. That same attitude makes Helen a few enemies – such as the self proclaimed “son of Zeus” Theseus – but it also intrigues, charms and amuses those who become her friends, from the famed huntress Atalanta to the young priestess who is the oracle of Delphi.
This is the second book I have read by this author and I have to say, Esther M. Friesner is fast becoming one of my favorites. Weaving together a tale of history and fantasy, this book tells the story of a Young Helen of Troy – before she launched the thousand ships that lead to the city’s downfall.
Beginning in her early childhood, the story follows Helen's life through to her adolescent years. Wanting only to be as free as the waves from which Aphrodite rose, she discovers early on that to have freedom, you must have power. And while her growing beauty may win her many a warriors loyalty, it isn’t nearly as fun as becoming a warrior herself…
I must admit that when I first picked up this book, I had no idea that it was a retelling of Helen of Troy’s early years. However I soon cottoned on and was happy to realize I had never heard a story venturing into this aspect of Helen’s life before. Helen was simply “the face who launched 10,000 ships”, and as to who she really was and the life she lived before, no one seemed to care. So thank you so much to Esther M. Friesner for writing this book. It’s truly been a pleasure to read.
I thought this story was exceptionally well written, throwing in just enough history so that the book hinged on fantasy that was borderline plausible. With plenty of cameo appearances from heros such as Jason, Hercules, Atlanta and Apollo’s oracle, the story really brought the ancient world to life.
Helen is a fantastic heroine and centre piece for the story. Confident and a little vain, she works hard for what she wants and learns early on how to manipulate people who see only her beauty. However I like how when she becomes a gangly adolescent she pulls back into herself slightly, allowing her to lose some of that childhood vanity.
I also particularly liked how Helens true friends care nothing for her looks and judge her by her deeds, actions and sheer passion for life.
The plot moves at a fast pace, usually as Helen always seems to be getting herself into trouble. And while the Gods and various creatures of legend are mentioned, they always lurk at the back of the story, and I like how even the characters themselves are sceptical as to the reality of such myths.
However the one thing I disliked about this book was that it ended on a cliff hanger, so naturally I have had to go by the sequel Nobody’s Prize which I imagine will be just as enthralling a read. All in all, a fantastic story and hugely recommended. 5stars!