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Daughter of Sparta
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Don't miss the page-turning sequel, Blood of Troy!
In this thrilling reimagining of ancient Greek mythology, a headstrong girl becomes the most powerful fighter her people have ever seen.
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 tales of ancient Greek mythology are timeless—filled with epic battles, heroic figures, and memorable monsters, it’s no surprise these stories continue to capture hearts. Unfortunately, these stories are also littered with gods abusing their powers, women being victimized, and male heroes receiving all the glory.
One of the reasons I was so captivated by Claire Andrews’s debut novel is that she’s reimagined the character of Daphne—a victim in her original myth—as a fierce warrior, a self-sufficient heroine who can hold her own against the gods. Daughter of Sparta is a fast-paced, action-driven adventure that sees Daphne traversing the mythological stories we’ve come to know and love, performing the heroic deeds that are traditionally credited to men.
I knew Daughter of Sparta was something special from page one and I’m thrilled to have it on the list at JIMMY Patterson Books. I can’t wait for you all to fall in love with it, too.
JIMMY Patterson Books
The sun begins its descent beyond the Taygetus mountains, filling the sky with a golden glow as the honor of my family balances upon my shoulders.
Lykou’s challenge hangs in the air. The usual cheers of Carneia have dulled to mere whispers, the crowd surrounding us waiting for my response.
Lykou flashes me a crooked grin and accepts the dory, a whole three meters of bone-shattering wood and metal that Paidonomos Leonidas hands him. His challenge isn’t malicious, but rather a test. We’ve always jested about who would win in a single-combat duel.
Alkaios stands among the crowd. My oldest brother gives me a small shake of his head, lips pressed together in a narrow line. To fight would bare for all that I know much more than I should. As a Mothakes woman—not born of Sparta—I should be granted little but an eternity of servitude, but as the adopted daughter of an ephor I have more liberty—though not too much.
To reject Lykou’s challenge, though, would be much more than my ego could tolerate.
“Fools,” I mutter as both my brother and Lykou, like every other man here, underestimate my determination. Underestimate my desire to win.
This is Carneia, and so no better time to prove to Sparta and the gods all I have to offer.
Servants move from pyre to pyre around the makeshift arena that separates us with blazing torches. In the suffocating heat of early summer, my skin is slick with sweat and reflects like amber in the blossoming firelight. I accept the dory Paidonomos Leonidas, the great general, passes me and give it a twirl, a delicious ache rippling up my arm. Fury flickers across Alkaios’s dark features.
Lykou doesn’t give me a chance to make the first move. He leaps across the arena and strikes his dory wide. Even a glancing blow will end the duel and declare the victor. I barely roll from his reach in time, shoulder hitting the dirt hard enough to steal the breath from my lungs. Before he can attack again, I swipe for his legs.
He rolls beneath my swing. I scramble to my feet. He stabs toward my chest and I stumble back from his reach. My next swing is wide and a chuckle escapes Lykou.
I bite back the urge to hiss, baring my teeth. My knees tremble slightly, my leg muscles aching from my morning exercises as my untamable hair obscures my glare. I don’t take the time to shake the sweat that threatens to drip into my eyes, never turning from my opponent.
Lykou tosses his dory neatly to his left hand, jabbing at the space between my arm and hip without so much as a stumble. I barely avoid the attack, my body protesting as I roll painfully across the rocks and dirt, then return to my fighting stance. The sharpened iron spearhead glints as it stabs the air where I just stood.
Show-off. The ass is right-handed.
Never taking my eyes from him, I switch my own dory to my left hand, ripped calluses protesting. I fight a grimace as a jolt of pain lances up my left arm with the simple movement. My shoulder aches, a bruise the size of a pomegranate already blossoming. Lykou dances around me, favoring his right leg slightly, knee inflamed from rolling beneath my swing.
The cheers around us are deafening and the acrid tang of smoke singes my nose. Lykou’s soldier brethren hoot from the sidelines, their enthusiastic feet stomping dust into the air around us. Even King Menelaus watches from a dais on the sidelines in grim silence as his beautiful wife, Queen Helen, leans forward and clasps her hands over her heart.
Carneia, the annual festival to honor and celebrate the gifts of Apollo, has only just begun; Lykou and I are the night’s first entertainment. Dancing, food, and revelry beckons from beyond our arena, but all are ignored.
A spar between a man and a woman hasn’t gone on this long in an age, and never between a Mothakes and a true Spartan.
I feel naked in front of the jeering crowd, their taunts cutting through my clothes more clearly than any knife could. Though many Spartans, men and women alike, duel naked, I wear a poppy-colored chiton, wrapped tight across my chest and cut so short it dances high on my thighs. From my left wrist a single bronze bangle pinches my skin and shines in the firelight. DIODORUS, my adoptive family name, is etched on the bangle, the only token of my status that I’ll allow on my body. Anything more on my person might slow me down.
Lykou still grins. He wears a pitch-black chiton, baring much of his muscled chest, the woolen fabric clinging to his sweaty skin. I can’t wait to wipe that ridiculous smile from his face. I parry his next strike, spinning and slashing high so that he has to dive to avoid my spear. The enthusiastic cries from the audience soar around me, deafening now.
I force myself to focus on the muscled intensity of his legs. With an exaggerated grimace of pain, I slump my bruised shoulder ever so slightly, offering an easy target. Lykou leaps forward and takes the bait just as I knew he would, lunging for my injured shoulder.
I twist and swing to meet him as he jumps right into my reach. He shouts in alarm and tries to pull back in midair, but my dory has already grazed his side, tearing what little he has of a chiton in a strike of victory.
Both men and women in the crowd groan. Lykou chucks his dory to the ground in a flurry of dust, defeat coloring his typically assured movements. I don’t dare reach out to clap him on the back or ease the sting of his loss, though. Alkaios has disappeared and I will undoubtedly get a scolding later. Still atop his wooden dais, Menelaus regards me with stern, dark eyes before nodding to his counselors. I have no idea what the nod means, but it is enough to know that my anax, my liege, witnessed my victory.
My initial joy from victory plummets, the heated glares and scorn from the audience scalding. I refuse to let their bile affect me; in a society where strength is everything, I can’t afford to be seen as anything less than the men I fight alongside and against. Being born a Mothakes, an outsider, is only a weapon they can use against me if I let it be so.
Chin held high, I toss my dory into the dirt beside Lykou’s before marching toward the sidelines.
Paidonomos Leonidas catches my arm. He nods to the waiting king and queen. “Don’t forget your place, Mothakes.”
He doesn’t need to say anything else, that even the adopted daughter of a politician can only rise so high. With teeth clenched, I turn and kneel before Menelaus. My cheeks are burning, but not from the exertion of the duel. Leonidas didn’t insist on Lykou bowing.
He stops me again as I’m leaving. “That was good work out there, Daphne Diodorus. Even your brothers could learn a thing or two from you.” The words are high praise coming from a paidonomos, though salted as he continues, “Your movements are reckless, unthinking. You must learn to not only read others’ movements, but your own.”
I open my mouth to point out that Lykou could use the same advice, but he cuts me off.
“Before you bother to turn my words onto Lykou, I have told him, your brothers, and all Spartan soldiers the same thing.” Leonidas crosses his heavily muscled arms. “I say this to prepare you. Sparta hasn’t gone unchallenged for over a hundred years because our monarchs are great peacekeepers. We’ve maintained our seat of power through the might of our army, the strongest Greece has ever known.”
This, the whole world knows. No army in known history has ever surpassed the wealth of power, strength, and strategy that Sparta possesses. Only fool kings with more wealth than wisdom have challenged us in the past couple centuries, and all have been sent back to their measly thrones with their tails between their legs and a fraction of their army remaining… if our kings were feeling benevolent.
“I fear our time of easy battles has come to an end.” Leonidas turns to watch the next match. The queen’s brother, Pollux, is sweeping the floor with one of Lykou’s friends. True Spartans, strength runs deep in Queen Helen’s family. “The drought has left our people with ire. The kings of Greece grow restless, their people hungry, and the gods bored. A reckoning awaits beyond the horizon.”
My palms itch. Before I can ask what he means, he claps me on the back and walks to the king’s dais. I cut through the crowd, the excitement in the air intoxicating enough to push Leonidas’s words to the recesses of my mind. I won’t let an old man’s paranoia ruin my victory, not when the night is still young and brimming with all of the possibilities that Carneia has to offer.
I don’t make it far before Lykou calls after me. “Daphne.”
He shoves his way toward me. Despite his loss, he wears my victory like a banner, reaching me with a broad smile. I grow uncomfortably aware, the closer he gets, of the many, many reasons why Lykou sets the majority of hearts in Sparta aflutter.
“Your chiton has seen better days.” Returning the smile with a furious blush, I point to the torn cloth and struggle to keep my eyes from wandering across the broad expanse of his chest. “Or are you attempting to start a new fashion trend?”
Lykou drops into a mock bow. “A beautiful woman just couldn’t keep herself from trying to rip it off of me.”
“Oh.” I finger the hem of my chiton, my hands refusing to still. “She must have been sorely provoked.”
He laughs. “I guess you could call a duel challenge a provocation.”
“Alkaios will never let me hear the end of it, I’m sure.” I shake my head.
“I think you quite thoroughly demonstrated tonight exactly why the Spartan army needs women like you.” Lykou rubs the back of his neck. “Even if it cost me my dignity.”
“Of course they should, but the paidonomos would never allow it. A woman can learn to wield a weapon, but gods forbid she ever wield one on a battlefield.”
“Regardless”—he reaches out to brush a strand of hair from my face, stirring a traitorous flutter deep in my stomach—“you fought beautifully out there.”
My gaze trails the line of his bicep, my mouth suddenly dry. Maybe I could let myself enjoy Lykou’s plush lips, find out what it feels like to run my fingers through those dark curls… I give my head an abrupt shake. I will not let myself be tied down to any man. Not while the title Mothakes still hangs over me.
I open my mouth to respond, but one of Lykou’s friends comes up and tugs on his arm. “Time to prepare for the race.”
Carneia reaches its zenith with an agon. Five unmarried men are chosen by Sparta’s five ephors to chase a deer. If it is caught, the year will be a superb one for our harvests and army. And if not… disaster awaits. It is best that the deer is caught. To succeed and bring the favor of Apollo is of particular import this year, with Helen and Menelaus leaving soon to meet with the mad king of Crete.
This year, thanks to our father, my brother Pyrrhus has the honor of being chosen for the agon.
Lykou flashes me an apologetic smile, dipping his head so that his charcoal locks fall before his eyes. “Can I count on you to be there when they crown me?”
My mouth pops open with a ready rejection, as it always has when Lykou crosses that line. His eager, dark eyes, warm like smoldering coal, stop me, though. Perhaps I won’t be so harsh, just this once.
“Of course I’ll be there when you win.” His smile could light up the night as surely as the moon. “But don’t tell my brother, or he’ll disown me for not placing all my bets on his victory.”
Beaming, Lykou allows himself to be pulled away and I turn to the task of finding the brother in question.
It isn’t difficult to find him. Pyrrhus’s fiery curls stand out like a beacon among the raven tresses of our Spartan kin. I dodge elbows and overfull cups of wine to reach him. Silently slipping up behind him, I tug the hair at the nape of his neck. “Ready for the Chase, Pyr?”
“I’ve been ready.” Turning, my brother gives an infectious grin. “Imagine the honor and prestige our family will receive when I win. They won’t dare to taunt us anymore.”
“Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. The gods do not—”
“—take kindly to mortals who presume to possess greatness above their station.” Pyrrhus’s imitation of Alkaios is perfect, standing with a rigid back and up-thrust chin to mock our scrupulous older brother.
“Careful,” I say, stealing a sip of his wine. “Any more sass and the gods will think you don’t mean it.”
“Damn the gods, Daph.” I choke and he takes his kylix back. “Why should we offer homage to the gods that brought us to this forsaken place?”
I knock the wine from his hand and hiss, “Are you mad?” I look around to make sure no one overheard, but the revelers are too deep into their own cups to give us even a passing glance. “The anax could have your tongue for such sacrilege. Alkaios would have your head.”
“Alkaios hates the gods as much as I do.” Pyrrhus cocks his head, dark smile deepening the dimple on his left cheek. “And you do, too. Or in your constant striving for acceptance did you forget that the gods are to blame for our current social status?”
Pyrrhus and Alkaios lost much more than I did the night I was born. I never knew our parents. My brothers lost a mother and father that they loved and admired, and had been brought to Sparta, far from the home they’d grown up in.
I don’t tell him that his words strike dead on the mark. Crossing my arms over my chest, instead I say, “If this is your way of trying to get out of the Chase, I—”
“I’m afraid of nothing.” He waggles his eyebrows. “Besides, Alkaios would hunt down the deer himself if he thought I wasn’t capable. Honor over family and all that.”
“That’s not fair.” I thump his arm. “Alkaios isn’t here to defend himself.”
“He means well, though I could do without the sanctimonious delivery. It’s sometimes hard to tell if Alkaios is training to be a soldier or a priest. Now I must find more wine.” Pyrrhus presses a small kiss on my cheek and winks as he vanishes into the crowd. My happiness dims the moment he leaves.
Moving through the crowd, I spy my handmaid Ligeia, Alkaios and his wife, and my adoptive parents mingling among the celebrating Spartans. Dipping in the opposite direction, I escape their certain scolding and disapproval. Alkaios has no doubt told them about my duel before the king and queen.
Shedding the shackles of dignity and decorum demanded by Sparta and the honor of my family, I throw myself into the raucous crowd. I dance for hours, spinning and dipping to the beat of a thousand drums. While I sit out a dance, licking the grease of roast lamb from my fingers, the bellow of a horn calls the people of Sparta together for the start of the agon. With Selene’s crescent moon hanging low in the sky, the crowd flows from rows of canopied tents to the dark fields outside the city. All of Sparta has waited an entire year for this event, the most important tradition in Sparta, and never has it been more important than now.
King Menelaus and Queen Helen wait patiently on the banks of the Eurotas river, illuminated by the light of an enormous bonfire that sends sparks and the smell of burning pine into the night sky. I move with the impatient crowd, thousands of Spartans waiting on the city’s edge for our king’s command. My heart thunders with heady anticipation.
Four young Spartiates, the light of the bonfire gleaming off their stripped, oiled bodies, march onto the field and face Menelaus, bowing low to the earth.
My stomach plummets to the soles of my feet as I fail to spy the fiery curls of my brother.
Where is Pyrrhus?
Searching the crowd for Pyrrhus, my gaze locks on Alkaios several yards away. His jaw is clenched, brow furrowed, and hands bunched in tight fists.
Pyrrhus’s absence tarnishes our family’s honor. If he doesn’t run, our lives will be forfeit to the gods as a message and warning to others.
My heart thunders in my chest and ears, a hollow pulsing louder even than the festival drums. My breath hitches with the growing restlessness of the crowd, their impatient, demanding gazes turning from the line of runners to Alkaios and me. Soon they will be calling for our blood. This is exactly what they expect of Mothakes like me and my brothers. Our father took a chance choosing Pyrrhus, and now my brother is about to sacrifice the honor of our family.
I shoot Alkaios another desperate glance, but all he spares me is a single curt nod, dark eyes unreadable from such a distance. If Pyrrhus won’t run, then another youth in our family must race. But Alkaios is married, and past the age of consideration.
The burden of carrying Sparta’s fortune falls entirely on me.
Damn Pyrrhus. May Nemesis find him and shrivel his manhood.
Straightening my shoulders, I step forward.
“No woman should run,” a man shouts, while another jeers, “A Mothakes should have never been chosen!”
“The gods will punish us for this blasphemy,” a woman yells. “She brings dishonor to Sparta. Stop her.”
“Mothakes! Mothakes! Mothakes!”
Outsider. Outsider. Outsider.
That’s all I will ever be to these people. Though free, my worth as a Mothakes is little more than a slave. My brothers and I can aspire to only what wealth a marriage may bring us; my brothers will have no careers further than service to the army, despite being the adopted children of an ephor. Pyrrhus’s place in this race could have changed that, possibly earned his freedom from the ill-begotten title hanging above all of our heads.
I shake my head, clearing the tears that threaten to spill from my eyes. It sears my soul to know that our adoptive parents are somewhere in this raucous crowd, watching helplessly as our family’s future hangs by the threads of the Fates and the king’s grace.
The heckling recedes as I approach the line of runners, bowing swiftly to the king and queen. They make no protest, only nodding in my direction with grim acceptance. It is unprecedented for a woman to run, but they will do whatever is necessary to secure Sparta’s future.
The other runners focus on the monarchs. Even Lykou, standing to my left, ignores me, his chin high and eyes on Menelaus. The queen’s other brother, Castor, stands to my right with rigid spine and shoulders, and beside him are two sons of Sparta’s most prominent politicians. They sway on their feet with vacant expressions, having tasted far too much of the festival’s wine. Would Dionysus be proud of their ill-timed consumption of his favorite beverage?
Kneeling, I peer at the king through my curtain of hair, but instead meet Helen’s dark eyes. She gives me a look of both pride and something harder to decipher—jealousy, perhaps? I have no idea why. She is far more lovely, wealthy, and powerful than I will ever be.
But then I remember Helen before she married Menelaus. Running in the fields, the fastest woman Sparta had ever seen, with the promise of the famous Spartan daughter Atalanta.
I drop my gaze to the ground, shoving aside thoughts of the queen as Menelaus’s voice cuts through the din of unruly Spartans.
“The rules are simple.” He stands so all his subjects can see. “These five youths will ensure the gratitude of Apollo by retrieving for Sparta the offering of his twin sister, Artemis.”
Led by a servant, a deer is paraded before us, straining against its captor and not yet resigned to its fate. Around its neck is a garland of laurel branches decked with flowers. A moment’s pity for the deer catches in my throat as the whites of its eyes shine in the firelight.
“Retrieve the garland before dawn. Should the deer escape and the dawn of the goddess Eos rise before the garland is returned to me, the crops of Sparta will wither and die. The Eurotas will run dry. The men of our army will fall to plague and death. The drought this spring already tests the strength of Sparta. May your victory bring the rain our crops so dearly need.”
He turns to a young oracle, dressed in a red peplos, with eyes like a starless night. She steps forward and says, for all of Sparta to hear, “With this race, we not only ask for Apollo’s divine favor, but must also give him our strength. You have no doubt heard of the restlessness growing beyond Sparta. The kingdoms swallowed whole by the earth, armies with nothing to eat but sand and bronze, and children of the Mesogeios sacrificed each year to beasts lurking beneath cities.
“These ills,” she says, waving an arm to the Taygetus mountains and lands beyond, “will reach us, just as they have reached even the gods from the heights of Olympus. Zeus no longer brings us rain and so our crops wither. Hera blesses us less and less with sons to replenish our armies. The lands to the west rumble from Poseidon’s ire, and Athena has not blessed our battles to the east. Their powers abandon them and soon we will suffer the consequences.”
Impossible. A murmur ripples through the crowd. The gods are untouchable, beyond the reach of our plights. It’s unheard of, that anything existed that could so much as tickle their skin.
“Stand, Apollo’s chosen,” the king commands, raising his arms.
We rush to do his bidding, and servants move forward to paint our bodies red and gold, the Spartan colors of blood and wealth.
“You must not interfere with your fellow runners. You each run for the glory of Sparta. If any of you hinders another champion, the action will be treated as treason and you will be banished.” Our king’s voice is as cold and unforgiving as an iron blade as he looks each of us in the eye. “The weight of Sparta’s future rests on your shoulders.”
Menelaus gestures to a pair of servants, and they bring forward a giant cushion covered in a silk sheet. I gasp as the sheet falls away, and there, gleaming in the firelight, is the most perfect dory I’ve ever seen. “Should you be successful, the rewards will be abundant.”
The spear is delicately carved with dark vines and laurel leaves, with a cherrywood handle, topped with a leaf-shaped iron spearhead and golden butt-spike. Though not the length of a typical dory, barely cresting my own height, the moonlight-colored spear before me has been bought at great cost from the southern continent.
My nails dig into my palms. Spartans are not dazzled by beautiful weapons, but this is no small gift. This is a gift worthy of a hunter whose true prize is the fortune of Sparta. I won’t win this race for a mere spear. I will win this race for Sparta’s future and mine.
“Runners to their positions.” Menelaus raises his right arm high.
I nearly trip over myself as I rush to line up with the other runners. My feet dance with impatience as the deer is led ten paces in front of our line.
“May the wings of Hermes be beneath your feet.”
Menelaus’s arm falls and I bolt from the line.
I fly straight for the Taygetus forest, dashing across the ground in impossible lengths. Castor and Lykou flank me, their long legs pushing them harder and farther with each leap. The other two runners fall behind us, drunk on the night’s wine and unprepared for the competition.
All the better.
I have more to lose than all of them, and more to win. Carneia is the province of men, and I am an unwelcome challenger.
My breath escapes my lips in a shrill whistle. I’m already halfway across the field and quickly approaching the forest’s edge. The festival food, once delicious, sits uneasily in my stomach. My lungs and muscles, already weary from the festival’s delights and trials, scream in protest as I push my body to its limits.
For Sparta. For my family. For my honor.
Lykou pulls ahead while Castor still matches my pace. He soon overtakes me and I focus on his and Lykou’s backs as they surge ahead. The line of cypress trees looms before us, marking the Taygetus forest.
The dark tree line beckons me like a friend. Having spent most of my days and nights hunting in Taygetus’s depths, I know the forest better than my competitors. But I must reach it first.
A fallen tree marks the end of the field. I leap over it, my momentum pitching me ahead of Lykou and Castor. The thicket swallows me. I leave the firelight behind and hurtle into the darkness beyond.
A hiss escapes me when branches rip into my arms. Lykou’s and Castor’s footsteps falter as they crash and flounder in the impenetrable darkness but I surge forward, undaunted. This is my domain and sanctuary. I know this forest better than anyone else in Sparta. Sprinting forward, my ears guide my flight.
Calf muscles straining against the steady incline of the forest floor, I continue my chase. The tree line gives way to a rock face that forms a barrier between the foothills and the mountains.
- "A fresh, original spin on classic Greek mythology. Andrews is a debut to watch; Daughter of Sparta is an action-packed adventure with phenomenal writing and empowering female characters that are sure to pack a punch. I was absolutely enamored by this book!"—Adalyn Grace, New York Times bestselling author of the All the Stars and Teeth series
- "Daughter of Sparta deftly weaves classic Greek myth into a spellbinding adventure led by a fierce and complex heroine. An utterly transportive and breathtaking debut."—Katy Rose Pool, author of There Will Come a Darkness
- "Claire Andrews' Daughter of Sparta is an epic story about female empowerment, packed with romance, adventure and mystery. This fast-paced and well-researched novel was truly difficult to put down!"—June Hur, author of The Forest of Stolen Girls
- "Nonstop action, drama, and an unforgettable female warrior will keep readers turning pages.... Awe-inspiring."—SLJ
- "A strong female-led adventure story with an underlying romance."—SLC
- "This twist on the narrative is great for readers aging out of Rick Riordan’s books."—Booklist
- "This book has all the right elements to sweep you off your feet.... A fresh and exciting reimagining of the classic Greek myth."—Nerd Daily
- "Every reader who's groaned at the passivity of helpless girls ensnared by gods behaving badly will root for her [Daphne] to succeed.... Andrews brings Daphne's world convincingly to life, earning extra credit for breathless scenes of mortal combat."—Kirkus Reviews
- On Sale
- Jun 8, 2021
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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