DAUGHTER OF SPARTA by Claire M. Andrews
Little, Brown and Co., 2021
I had the best time reading this book. I have obviously read quite a few Greek mythology retellings in my day, but still, I was a little worried that this wasn’t going to work for me just because YA is usually not my thing and I tend to prefer my retellings on the more literary side. But it turns out this was a totally different beast from commercial adult retellings like Circe — and it turns out I enjoyed what Claire M. Andrews was doing much better.
Daughter of Sparta is a zippy, action-packed reimagining of the story of Daphne and Apollo. Throw what you know about the original out the window because it bears very little relevance to Andrews’s narrative — though kernels of other related myths are very self-consciously strewn throughout the novel — instead, Andrews confidently takes the reins and pulls the story in a completely different direction. Her Daphne isn’t a helpless maiden at the mercy of Apollo’s whims; she’s the agent of her own story, and also the only one who can save Greece from impending ruin.
This feels very much like a road trip narrative — not literally, of course, as it’s set in Ancient Greece — but it’s that kind of story, nevertheless: two people (or one person and one god, in this case) traveling and facing hurdles together, their own dynamic shifting as the pages turn. What I loved about this was that it felt nothing like all the other million adaptations I’ve read, while still taking place in the original setting (nothing against modern adaptations, which I also quite like; I was just losing faith that true innovation was even possible without moving the setting). This book is just feels very off the beaten path, which is only a compliment in such a saturated subgenre.
All said, Daughter of Sparta is a tremendously fun, self-assured, pacy debut — definitely skewed toward younger readers (as most young adult novels tend to be), which I just want to stress as my blog and Goodreads audience does skew older, and I don’t want to mislead — but if that sounds good to you, this is a fantastically fun romp. I’m highly anticipating the sequel.
NB. Claire M. Andrews is a friend of mine. Thank you Claire for the advanced copy!