(crossposted to itbit)
While reading Nobody's Princess, I couldn't help comparing it to Princess Academy. It's not just that they both have the word "princess" in the title, it's that they both are set in a non-industrial time, where the earthy mythology of the time looms large in the lives of the people.
Nobody's Princess tells the story of Helen, yes, that famous Helen of Troy who incited terrible wars between nations. It's one of those spunky history rewrites that tells of a girl who may not conform to the standards of her time, but meets our approval by being rebellious, atypical, and displaying very modern sensibilities. Adults love to give this kind of book to girls to read because they present such a strong role model. While the other Good Greek Girls are inside embroidering, Helen is outside with her brothers, all clandestine, learning the art of swordplay. Indeed, I would love my daughter to grow up to be this kind of girl, a girl who doesn't wait around for others to take care of her or her affairs, but acts independently and creates her own reality and future.
I particularily liked the positive portrayal of the spirituality of Helen and her people. For them, the gods are very present, and factor into much of how they conduct themselves. It describes a reality far removed from our secular society.
While I enjoyed the vivid portrayal of life in ancient Greece and the glimpse into the early years of a famous woman of history, I found the prose a little clunky. As I mentioned, I couldn't help comparing it to the Newberry Honor book, Princess Academy, and the difference was noticable. If Princess Academy is like driving down a newly resurfaced freeway, Nobody's Princess sometimes read like driving down an old dirt road. The prosecould be clunky and in the way of the story. I felt that as I got well into the book, the story began to take over and the prose became less of an obstacle, flowing better.
The fashion in books for young audiences is to write in series, and this books is no exception. We were left on a cliff hanger, watching Helen set off on another brand new adventure. I enjoyed the book enough that when I will definitely check out the sequel.