Book Review: Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner

In Nobody’s Princess, we meet the young Helen of Sparta, as author Esther Friesner imagines her to have been, before she became the Iliad’s Helen of Troy. Inspired by Sparta’s later practices to train girls in athletics and warfare, Friesner paints Helen as a feisty and fearless would-be warrior maiden, as well as possessing her legendary physical beauty.

Young Helen’s adamant determination to be free of a woman’s domesticated fate sends her on numerous adventures: disguising herself as a boy, learning swordplay, hunting, helping slay a wild boar, and voyaging to new cities. This YA novel is a quick and easy read, and the enchanting setting of Bronze Age Greece was well-described and captured my imagination. I enjoyed the numerous mythological references and the way in which Friesner wove the Greek gods and goddesses, heroes, and their stories into Helen’s daily world and stream of consciousness. Nearly all of the supporting characters had color and charm in their own ways. I would’ve enjoyed reading even more of their stories and interactions. I especially admired Atalanta, the friendly girl-warrior who teaches Helen how to ride horseback.

The last several chapters of the book set up Helen’s next adventure, so the reader must find the sequel to resolve the story. This is a fun mythological novel for girls aged 11-14.

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