I am so happy I finally finished reading this book. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021 and I am so thankful for the publisher for sending me a finished copy for review! I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait for the sequel!
I received a finished copy in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler free, honest review and all thoughts and feelings are my own.
Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews
Published: June 8, 2021
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Fantasy
Sparta forged her into a deadly weapon. Now the Gods need her to save the world!
Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne’s brother’s fate in her hands—upends the life she’s worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods’ waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother’s life will be forfeit.
Guided by Artemis’s twin-the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo-Daphne’s journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.
A reinterpretation of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, Daughter of Sparta by debut author Claire Andrews turns the traditionally male-dominated mythology we know into a heart-pounding and empowering female-led adventure.
The first thing that drew me into this book was the map. I love a good map for a fantasy book and seeing one based on Ancient Greece made me so happy. I used to be obsessed with Greek mythology as a child and I got so excited looking over the map and thinking about the journey Daphne was about to go on. And once I started reading, I was basically hooked.
If you know the original tale of Daphne and Apollo, you would know that their romance was doomed from the start. Apollo was obsessed with Daphne after being struck by Cupid’s arrow, but Daphne was struck with an opposing lead arrow. So while Apollo was madly in love with Daphne, she was repulsed by him. Eventually, Daphne plead to her father, the river god Peneus, to save her from Apollo’s advancements and in return he turned her into a laurel tree. In this story though, Daphne is not helpless in her situation nor to Apollo’s advancements.
As an outsider, or Mothakes, Daphne and her brothers are not full citizens of Sparta and therefore are seen as lesser. She struggles to prove herself as a Spartan and a warrior, and through her perseverance becomes a skilled warrior. I loved the change in narrative. Greek women did not have a lot of rights, though in Sparta it was a little different. To see Daphne as a strong warrior instead of simply a helpless damsel gave me strong Megara vibes from Hercules. I always hated in Greek mythology how helpless or villainized the women were, even if it was clearly the men causing all the problems. To have a change in narrative was so refreshing and made this story that much more fun.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought the storyline was fun and interesting, the challenges were difficult and unique, and overall, it was a good book. I will say my one complaint in the plot is that it gets very slow in the middle. The beginning and end had perfect pacing and kept me on the edge of my seat, engaged in what was going to happen next. But the middle had a definite lag and I was sitting there wondering if it was going to pick up or not. While annoying, the slow down didn’t mean lack of action, in fact, a lot of stuff happens in those moments.
But I think the biggest thing I had an issue with were some of the side characters. Theseus, a character we meet along the way, felt really fleshed out in the beginning but dimmed as the spotlight moved off of him. And by the end, I felt like he was more of a shadow than a full character. Lykou, who doesn’t talk much in this book, also had moments of feeling more like a plot point than a character. Which was really disappointing since Daphne and Apollo were so well done and fleshed out.
If the side characters felt more fleshed out and less of a device for the plot, this book would have been 5 // 5 stars. The plot itself is great, Daphne and Apollo were engaging characters, the mythology (while changed to fit the story) was so much fun, and the imagery was fantastic. Everything about this book felt set up for success, except for the side characters. It’s actually so frustrating to think about.
Overall, I loved this book and really enjoyed it. I’m excited to find out what happens next in book 2 and hopefully we get more time with some of these characters so they feel a little more … real. All in all, great fantasy, especially for fans of Greek mythology!
If this book sounds interesting, you’ve probably already read The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, so be sure to check out Circe by Madeline Miller!