I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In this new take on Greek mythology, Daphne has grown up in Sparta training how to fight, despite being viewed as an outsider of the community. Then one day she is approached by the goddess Artemis, who tasks her with the near-impossible—saving Olympus. It turns out that nine things have been stolen from the home of the gods, and the gods’ powers are waning fast. So Daphne has to team up with the god Apollo to find these nine things and restore Olympus to its former glory before the world descends into chaos.
Well, this was… okay.
The best part of this book, for me, was seeing all the figures from Greek mythology. We get Minos, Theseus, the sphinx, Arachne, and of course lots of the gods and goddesses. That was fun!
As a protagonist, Daphne was fine, though she didn’t strike me as particularly remarkable or like anything I haven’t seen before. Still, she’s brave and strong but not without flaws. What kind of surprised me was how little we actually got to see her combat abilities: I felt like every time she had to fight, we didn’t get to see her at her fullest potential, which is supposed to be very impressive. So in the end, she didn’t really strike me as that much of a powerful warrior, despite that being her main thing.
The other characters were decent, but I didn’t feel that attached to anyone. I suppose the main exception is Apollo, since I already knew about him from reading Greek mythology (and yes, Riordan’s novels as well). He had a well rounded personality like Daphne did, but again he wasn’t super exciting. The other characters like Theseus and Lyta and Lykou were fine.
The fight scenes, as well as some of the more tense dialogue-heavy scenes, were well written. Battling in the labyrinth and facing the sphinx were especially engaging. On the other hand, I feel like the pacing of the overall story could have been improved. We didn’t get to see much of her life in Sparta, so I didn’t feel the connection to her brothers, or understand her motivation to prove herself as a true Spartan warrior, as much as I think I was supposed to. And also, I had trouble following how much time passed overall.
That said, I do like the way this book twisted the story of Apollo and Daphne. Originally, it’s a tale that victimizes Daphne and ends in tragedy, so I appreciated seeing her given the chance to take center stage. She still doesn’t have as much agency as I’d like, since so much of what she has to do is controlled by gods and/or prophecies, but at least she is the leader of the mission, and not led to destruction by Apollo.
But really, in the end, “just okay” is the best way to describe this book for me. I didn’t have any glaring issues with it, from the plot to the characters to the action, nor did I find much to compliment profusely. It’s a competent book in many aspects, but I can’t say it’s extraordinary, or that it made much of an impression on me. The way it was left with a clear opening for a follow up book makes me think that Andrews has a plan for more in this alternate universe, and I have a feeling this could develop nicely, but I’m not sure I will personally continue with it.
Overall rating: 7/10
Small side note: At one point, Daphne calls Hades the god of death, which he isn’t. That’s Thanatos. I can only hope that the finished product corrected it to god of the Underworld. A minor detail, I know, but still.