Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Beautiful One by Frances Thomas
Release Date: 8th September 2018
Publisher: S Books
Genres: Historical Fiction / YA

Even as a small child, Helen, princess of Sparta, knows that there is something special about her; men come from far away just to catch a glimpse of her beauty. Also there are those rumours that her real father was someone more important than King Tyndareus of Sparta. But her beauty is to cause problems; her sister Clytemnestra is jealous of the attention she gets, and even her magical brothers, Castor and Polydeuces, can’t protect her from the predations of a brute like Theseus of Athens. Still, as she grows up, and knows she’ll have to find a husband, she thinks a good deal about love, and what it might mean to her.

And that was when the terrible thing happened. There was no swan’s feather on my pillow that morning, but I woke up with a strange sensation that something soft was brushing my cheek. When I sat up and looked around, of course, there was no one there. Phyllis and my sister were still asleep. But I couldn’t help feeling anxious all day, though there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. If Castor had been there, I’d have confided in him, and he might even have been able to save me from what came later.

The Beautiful One tells the story of a young Helen of Sparta, or as she was better known eventually as Helen of Troy. Famed throughout the land for her beauty, even from a small child she was considered 'the beautiful one' in comparison to her sister.' Helen's life in the palace, although a little bit boring to her, is a safe and dependable environment with her brothers  and father to protect her, the love of her mother to care for her and her albeit sometimes fractious relationship with her older sister. 

Helen's world is soon turned upside down when a king decides that he wants Helen as his wife, despite the fact that she is still a mere child. The king is used to having everything he wants and decides to take matters into his own hands and Helen finds herself a prisoner, wishing desperately for her family to rescue her and return her home. However, she must wait for a number of years for this.

This was an interesting tale, told in the first person and from young Helen's perspective. Throughout the book we grow along with Helen and follow her childish thoughts and whims and later her more mature outlook as the time draws near for her to choose a husband from the many suitors who arrive at the palace. The book chronicles well the life of women during this time period and their very limited choices in terms of marriage and love, having little or no say over their futures.  Married off from a very young age they are mere political or tactical bargaining tools to keep peace and form alliances. Helen however was luckier than most with her father giving her some choices.

Frances Thomas has clearly done her research for this book and it was interesting learning about the different stories in relation to Greek mythology.  And, reading it on my kindle I was able to look up more information on the characters and their Roman counterparts. My only bug bear was the way Helen constantly referred to her father using his name.........'my father Tyndareus.' I'm not sure this was completely necessary for each reference to him when 'my father' might have sufficed. However, I am not an expert on the language of the time so perhaps this was the way a young princess addressed her father. In the grand scheme of things however, it was a small niggle in a nice, easy and quick read and I enjoyed Helen's story and that of her sister Clytemnestra. Their continuing story and the stories of their decedents are continued in the author's other books - The  Silver-Handled Knife, Helen's Daughter and finally, The Burning Towers. 


Frances Thomas was born in Wales during the war, though she has lived most of her life in London. However, some years ago, she and her historian husband retired to a beautiful part of mid-Wales. She’s written many books for children and adults, her most recent being a trilogy about the girls of the Trojan War.
For many years Frances also used to teach dyslexic children. She enjoys reading, sketching, cooking, and looking out of the window at the changing colours of the countryside. She has two grown up daughters, and two grandchildren.
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