Lovers of Greek Mythology, hark my call and heed this battle cry!
No really, I mean it. I just read a great retelling of the Apollo and Daphne story and while you know that I am no novice in my love for books based on Greek Mythology (see my post about Madeline Miller’s brilliance here) I couldn’t resist sending out the bat signal (olive signal?) for the new book by Claire M. Andrews, Daughter of Sparta.
Our heroine is Daphne of Sparta. Even though she’s taken from traditional Greek mythology, she’s far from the meek woman in the original myth. This Daphne is a trained warrior, training and fighting alongside the men proving herself worthy. Her past is mysterious, having been orphaned alongside her two older brothers and adopted into a Spartan family. Due to her status as an outsider in Sparta, she must work twice as hard to prove herself. This books follows her on her quest to find the location of nine missing items from Olympus. These items are crucial for keeping life as she knows it intact – so no pressure on her or anything.
Who gave her this quest? Artemis.
Who will be her companion along this quest? Artemis’ twin brother, Apollo.
What is she SUPPOSED to do once she gets this information? Go home.
Does she go home? No. No she does not. Instead, using her training and skills as a Spartan warrior, she, Apollo, and her friend Lykou (who has been turned into a wolf by Apollo) venture out to recover the nine lost items on their own.
Why are these items so important? Since the power of Olympus has been in decline, the power of the gods and goddesses are waning. Speeding it along is the theft of these items from their rightful place on Mount Olympus. If they aren’t returned, the gods will become human and eventually die a mortal death. Thus ensuring the end of their reign (boohoo for them) and chaos for the Greek people (boohoo for the Greeks.)
This book is jam-packed with action, adventure, a little light romance, definitely some sacrifice, and death – all to preserve the legacy of Greek gods, who I’m not sure rightfully deserve their positions.
First, I must consult my knowledge of Greek myths for the original version of the Apollo and Daphne story (with a little help from D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. Oh, wait. It’s not in D’Aulaires. So that’s not helpful.) The internet has helped me remember that Apollo fell in love with Daphne. Daphne, not being interested in being Apollo’s love interest, tried to run away but Apollo turned her into a tree. So, yeah. Not great.
Daughter of Sparta is a huge step up from the original myth. Not only is Daphne one of the most kick-ass heroines I have ever read – never being one to allow herself to be just an object of a man’s desire – but she’s also so empowered because she works exceptionally hard in the male-dominated Spartan society to prove herself worthy. She never lets the predetermined roles for women in Greek society hold her back. What a change from the original myths that almost always show women as damsels in distress or as objects that men need to possess. What a feminist statement!
<Side note: I definitely connected with the endnotes of the book, in which Andrews argues that many of the myths were written by men about the accomplishments of men. Is it possible or even probable that women have been shown the short end of the stick in mythology – especially in Greek mythology? I think there may be something here about how women can and should be portrayed in mythology going forward. Women deserve better than to be the objects of men. Feminist rant over.>
That being said, Apollo and Daphne are adorable together. They go from distrusting each other initially (I mean, Apollo straight up lies that he doesn’t know what they’re looking for, when, in fact, he’s the one who lost them in the first place! Idiot.) to working together and ultimately making sacrifices for each other. I am trash for this kind of book.
I wish I could say more but I don’t want to spoil too much. Part of the joy is seeing how the plot unfolds and how the secrets are revealed. However, it’s not a perfect book. There is, in fact, a lot going on. Sometimes even a bit too much. It’s like the author wanted to cram in as many Greek gods and monsters into one book. In fact, I’m wondering what is left for the next book (although in the next book they go to Troy so maybe this is just the tip of the iceberg.)
But for a debut novel, it is solid and I look forward to book #2, Blood of Troy!
Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews, published 2021