Are They Singing in Sparta?
Helena P. Schrader
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
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