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Are They Singing in Sparta?
Helena P. Schrader
iUniverse (2006)
ISBN 9780595386901


Reviewed by Regan Windsor for Reader Views (12/06)

It is a masterful feat when a writer can engross the reader into the very depths of a story to the point that they are oblivious to the profundity of knowledge they are gaining.  Helena P. Schrader accomplishes just that in “Are They Singing in Sparta?”  While the setting of Greece in 7th Century BC may at first glance be overwhelming, it quickly forms part of the intrigue of the novel.  The novel is split into four parts, the first three from the perspective of the three main characters and a final section which, bringing in a combination of the three perspectives, succeeds in brilliantly pulling the story together.

Part I describes Athens in the 7th Century through the perspective of Tyrtaios, a lame schoolmaster from Attica who has spent the majority of his life isolated in verse in the country.  Through what appears to be a cruel joke, no doubt with the influence of his uncle, he is called upon as the new Supreme Commander for Sparta’s army.  There could be no harsher punishment from his perspective than to be sent to Sparta and what he is certain will be absolute failure and embarrassment.

Part II picks up in Sparta, continuing the story through the perspective of Agesandros of whom Tyrtaios has already had contact with in his introductions to the Sparta army.  Through Agesandros the reader is introduced to the history of Sparta, including its political and social upheavals, and the heart of the war.

Part III introduces the perspective of Aletha, the widow of a war hero.  Both Tyrtaios and Agesandros build the intrigue of this character and both become dominant forces in her life.

Part IV jumps between the perspectives of these three characters as the web of the novel winds them together.  Full of action and intrigue, readers will find themselves silently cheering for each character as they each form a hero in their own regard.

“Are They Singing in Sparta?” succeeds in drawing the reader into the ancient world of 7th Century Greece. More than a historical novel, it is the journey of many heroes’, the lessons of many lives, and the ability of one man to show one nation the power of life after deaths.