Set in the mythical past, Daughter of Sparta, which I received from NetGalley for review, draws loosely on the story of Daphne and Apollo. Andrews does not rehash the ancient story in modern language or setting; rather, she plays with timelines, figures, and myths to tell her own story, drawing on Olympian gods, heroes, and monsters as suit the narrative. Her Daphne is an orphan who grew up in Sparta and longs to be a warrior. After an athletic competition takes an unexpected turn, Daphne is sent on a quest to save the Olympian pantheon, bringing her into contact with Apollo (who has been rendered mortal as punishment), Theseus, and Minos, among others.
The plot unfolds as a popular type of heroic journey: The warrior hero is sent to recover something valuable to the gods that has been stolen from them and encounters many violent dangers along the way. Adventure, a romance, and an endless array of requisite gory clashes with mythical gods and monsters all feature. Some of the mood shifts struck me as abrupt, and the characters’ motivations at times felt forced or unconvincing. But the choices Andrews makes are interesting to track.
On a purely personal level, I admit that I would love to see contemporary novels tackle other kinds of hero stories, not only warriors. In the world of ancient myth, what other kinds of conflicts existed and how else did heroes fulfill their purpose? Imagine a novel from Penelope’s point of view (no, Penelopiad does not count) or Iphigenia’s! With so much to mine, it surprises me how often warriors seem to be the default narrative mode. That said, Daughter of Sparta has the ingredients for an engaging fantasy-adventure. I recommend it especially for readers who enjoy myth-based, highly physical adventure and educators interested in contemporary novels in conversation with mythical themes and figures.