Reviewed by Regan Windsor for Reader Views (11/07)
Set in Sparta during the Second Messenian War, “Spartan Slave, Spartan Queen” builds on characters introduced in Helena P. Schrader’s previous novel “Are they Singing in Sparta?” What is so intriguing about this “series” is that each novel is successfully separate and distinct, and yet they complement each other beautifully. While “Are they Singing in Sparta?” focuses on war and politics of the time, “Spartan Slave, Spartan Queen” sways to the historical romance side, while still immersing the reader in the history, especially that of the households and women.
“Spartan Slave, Spartan Queen” opens with Agesandros successfully raiding his rival Aristimenes’s palace and capturing his slaves and concubine Niobe who is taken by the Spartan prince Anaxilas as his prize. Niobe, used to her life as a princess, refuses to give in to her new place as slave (helot), diminishing her value to the households she finds herself serving.
Mika, who served the beautiful princess Niobe before the raid, has easily adapted to her new surroundings. Considered ugly and unwanted due to her cover of warts, she finds shelter in the house of the kind Alethea. Leon, a slave serving Agesandros, has taken Mika as his prize and sent her to the safety of his master Alethea for work and safekeeping. Mika instantly falls in love with her captor Leon, but his eyes are on Niobe, who finds him beneath her.
As Kassia, daughter of Alethea, is chosen by Analixas to be his wife, Niobe desperately clings to her only hope of re-establishing her place as his concubine. Kassia, disgusted with Analixas lust toward her beauty and not what is beneath it, finds herself desperate to avoid his hand in marriage.
As power struggles and love triangles ensue the tension builds. Schrader adds an additional element when Parax, a physician’s apprentice, takes an interest in the mechanics of childbirth. Tired of seeing his patients die on the birthing bed, he is desperate to understand how to use his surgical knowledge and save both mother and child. An opportunity soon presents itself, but the pressure of the task at hand seems too much to bear.
“Spartan Slave, Spartan Queen” takes the readers on an intriguing and multi-layered journey through the world of Sparta. Helena P. Schrader’s ability to fuse the Spartan and modern world make this a truly remarkable read. This novel is sure to captivate a wide range of readers.
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