Nobody’s Princess by Esther M. Friesner

I’ve had my copy of Esther M. Friesner’s Nobody’s Princess since last year but I haven’t had a chance to read it until recently, when I was craving for a story with a princess who gets to kick some serious butt. I have loved Greek mythology ever since I first discovered kiddie versions of the stories back when I was younger. In high school, we discussed Mythology by Edith Hamilton for English and we even put up a play of The Iliad during my senior year.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

She is beautiful, she is a princess, and Aphrodite is her favorite goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Not one to count on the gods — or her looks — to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with steely determination and a sassy attitude. That same attitude makes Helen a few enemies — such as the self-proclaimed “son of Poseidon,” Theseus — but it’s also what intrigues, charms, and amuses those who become her friends, from the famed huntress Atalanta to the young priestess who is the Oracle of Delphi.

I expected Nobody’s Princess to be YA historical fiction but it’s written more for middle grade or younger YA readers. I know I keep saying this for just about every book written for a younger audience that I read but I think I would’ve loved this as a child. I’ve always been interested in learning more about Helen of Troy (she’s still Helen of Sparta in this book) because there must be more to her than just a beautiful face. In this retelling, she’s a headstrong young girl who’s more interested in keeping up with her brothers in sword fights than joining her dainty twin sister Clytemnestra in sewing clothes. Helen’s a pretty child and she was surprised to discover that people tend to treat her better than her sister because of her looks. I liked that even as she found out about her beauty, she didn’t let it get to her head. She wasn’t a spoiled princess. As the years go by, she becomes a typical awkward adolescent and that’s fine by her. Beauty’s not much help in the adventures that she wants to face anyway.

I prefer Esther M. Friesner’s version of Helen because she’s a more fitting princess of Sparta, which is a nation of warriors, than the famed beauty that I remember from The Iliad. It seems like the author was inspired by Tamora Pierce’s Alanna from the Song of the Lioness series in the sense that Helen dresses up as a boy to tag along with her brothers’ lessons. Helen is determined to make her own choices in life and there are times when she tends to be reckless, heading straight into dangerous situations even when the people around her are doing their best to protect her. Good thing she’s a clever girl who always manages to find a way out of the scrapes that she gets into. I recommend this book to anyone who’s curious about historical fiction steeped with Greek mythology. I enjoyed reading this one even if it’s a bit young for my taste, I think I would’ve enjoyed reading about a teen Helen more. If you have other historical fiction recommendations, I’d love to hear them. I feel like I don’t get to read enough books like this.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Reading Vacation
The Story Siren
Squeaky Books

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16 thoughts on “Nobody’s Princess by Esther M. Friesner

  1. I love Greek Mythology too (that’s why I’ve always wanted to have a toga party ^^)My Edith Hamilton is already worn-out from too much reading. I love the idea of a feisty Helen. It’s a new take on this Greek Myth figure.

    I enjoyed the following historical fiction reads: The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon as well as The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (which I think you mentioned, is in your TBR already)both are set in World War II but the first one is mostly in America the other Germany. And also Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, it is set during the Great Depression. It has interesting bits and actual photographs of the travelling circus during that time.

    • I really enjoyed reading Edith Hamilton’s book back in high school as well. Thank you for the recommendations! I do have a copy of The Book Thief and I really should bump it up my TBR but I don’t feel like reading a Holocaust novel lately.

  2. If you like this story, of Helen of Troy, I have to recommend Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley to you. Obviously, it’s adult, but it’s AWESOME.

    I have a copy of Nobody’s Princess, and just like yours, it’s been sitting on my shelf since I got it.

    • Oooh Firebrand looks good! Added it to my wishlist. I haven’t read any of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books and this looks like a good one to start with.

      Read this when you want something light and easy to fall into. I enjoyed it but didn’t really fall in love with the book.

  3. Oh this sounds like fun. I love Tamora Pierce’s books so I’m definitely going to add this one to my wishlist.

    Have you tried the Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott? It’s modern day, but it has a lot of historical characters and is heavily based on Mythology.

    -Bella

    • Bella, Tamora Pierce was mentioned by the author in her acknowledgments. I haven’t read Michael Scott’s books but I hear they’re pretty good. I should borrow them from my friends sometime.

  4. I second the recommendation for Firebrand. You already know that I’m a Marion Zimmer Bradley fan, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. Have you read Mists of Avalon and its sequels? I think it’s set in the same time period as the Sevenwaters books, but with a distinctly neo-pagan (it’s heavy on recreations of supposed “druidic” practices)slant to it. The prequel/s deal with the fall of Atlantis.

    I didn’t read a lot of historical YA as a kid, so unfortunately I can’t help with any recommendations for those. I think Friesner also wrote two books about a young Queen Nefertiti, Sphinx’s Princess and Sphinx’s Queen? I saw a hardcover for Sphinx’s Princess at Powerbooks and thought it sounded interesting.

    • Like I said in my reply to April’s comment, still haven’t read any of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books. 🙂 I have a copy of Sphinx’s Princess although I’m not that excited to read it since I didn’t really love this one. I have a feeling I’ll have the same reaction with the rest of her books.

      • Firebrand is available new at National Bookstore for 315 pesos. Go grab a copy! It used to be available at National’s bargain section (where I got my copy) used for 100 pesos, but that was a couple of years back. ^^;;

        Try to get your hands on a copy of Mists of Avalon while you’re at it. A lot of the early reviews for Daughter of the Forest compared it to MoA, but I’ve always felt that they’re completely different in terms of focus and approach. Still, it’s interesting to read a historical (non Thomas Malory/Chretien de Troyes) novel about King Arthur that was set in the actual time period the historical Arthur was thought to have lived in, and from the point of view of the women as well.

      • Really, Firebrand is available in National? I’ll see if they have copies of it in the Trinoma branch.

        Mists of Avalon is a series, isn’t it? I’d rather start with a standalone for now. 🙂

      • MoA (Mall of Asia? Haha) is part of a loosely related series, but the novels are stand alone and from what I recall there are little or no recurring characters. So not reading the sequels/prequels wouldn’t really affect your experience with the book. ^_^

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