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!