Helen of Troy

388697by Margaret George
Fiction / Historical Fiction
3 of 5 stars

I’ve read The Memoirs of Cleopatra multiple times, so I thought I would enjoy this one. The main difference here is that Cleopatra was a real person and had a lot of complex issues to deal with during her short life, and Helen of Troy isn’t real (spoiler) and her main character motivation was “Aphrodite made me do it.”

The first half of this book is great – a retelling of the Greek myth with some more details added in to make it fresh, as good re-tellings do. But once the Trojan War actually starts, it slows down dramatically, and limps to the end. A note from the author explains that dealing with humans interacting with the gods and children of the gods was a delicate process and removing the gods altogether made their character arcs/motivations collapse, and unfortunately she is correct. Helen and the large supporting cast are pushed through the plot, past landmarks like “The Abduction/Flight of Helen” “The Fall of Achilles” and “The Trojan Horse” with little to no character development, all because the various gods and goddesses want some drama. Paris and Helen literally fall in love on first sight because Aphrodite makes it happen. And they never examine their relationship beyond that. The other issue of Helen and other characters’ prescient gifts means that what little suspense could be present is invariably dashed right before it happens, because someone has a vision.

All this would normally give a story 2 stars for me, but damn if George’s writing isn’t beautiful in its (dull) details.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Helen of Troy is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Obviously Margaret George’s other works will be pretty similar since she specializes in detailed historical fiction. Aside from Helen of Troy, she writes about real people.
  • if you want lighter Greek myths try the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (it’s middle-grade)
  • The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer – In case you just love Greek myths generally.
  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus (the Oresteia) – In case you’d like to read more about Clytemnaestra’s family and their murderous rages.

Branching off of this, fantasy novels keep the mythological worlds and powers, historical fiction will remove those elements – within those are many recommendations of course.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Backlist Bonus: The Memoirs of Cleopatra | To Live a Thousand Lives

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