Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood is published with Hodder & Staughton and is described as ‘perfect for readers of Circe and Ariadne, a vivid and illuminating retelling of the Siege of Troy that tells the story of mythology’s most vilified women from their own mouths at long last’.
“How stupid she had been. Womanhood was strange and painful and humiliating, and there was no going back.”
Daughters of Sparta is a heart-wrenching re-telling of sisters, Helen and Klytemnestra of Sparta, and the prejudices they faced as women in Ancient Greece. This story follows the lives of the sisters and the choices they made that ultimately led to war over the young Spartan heiress Helen (more commonly known as Helen of Troy). Unlike most novels, Heywood includes stories from the girls’ perspective and the relationships they had as Greek royalty.
Daughters of Sparta gave me a better understanding of the relationships the girls had with their parents along with the general power dynamic of the palace. Klytemnestra and her mother had a strong bond between them as she was her firstborn and the rightful heiress. However, due to certain circumstances, their father, Lord Tyndareos, decided that Helen was the rightful heir to the Spartan throne. Klytemnestra, the original heiress, is then married off to the king of Mycanae, Lord Agamemnon.
As a married woman, she is not allowed to travel and visit her family. Throughout the novel, Helen and Klytemnestra long to see one another again.
“In her heart she knew it was the last time she would ever see her family.”
Women had little control over their lives in Ancient Greece, which is particularly evident here. The girls had little to no say in who they were to be betrothed to. Lord Tyndareos even threw a competition for Helen’s hand in marriage, but she was still unable to choose. Once the girls were of eligible age to marry, there was no hesitation. Allies were more important than love.
“Without protest or violence, Helen had finally been won.”
An overall sense of foreshadowing is clear here as most readers are aware of what has yet to come.
After they were married off, any happiness they may have experienced with their new husbands vanished. Unfortunately, they were thrown aside, seen as nothing more than an accomplishment.
“Helen of Sparta, the unlovable beauty.”
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me a deeper insight into the lives of these brave women and the conditions they faced. Through all the hardships, they stayed strong and fierce even when they felt deflated or hopeless. I highly recommend this to anyone who has an interest in Greek Mythology. Claire Heywood gives us a fresh perspective from the viewpoint of Helen and Klytemnestra of Sparta and how they lived their lives.
(c) Katie Hearne
Order your copy online here.