Caroline B. Cooney: “Goddess of Yesterday”

Goddess of Yesterday  Goddess of Yesterday

“Here is my advice to you. Stay silent. Be fearful of Helen. The daughter of a god pays no price for any action she takes. She cannot suffer and so she does not discern the suffering of others.”

YA Novel
Alternate Title: Goddess of Yesterday: A Tale of Troy
Pages: 263
First Published: 2002

Synopsis: Anaxandra is the happy favorite child of her father, the chieftain on their small island in the Aegean Sea. At age six she is taken by King Nicander to be a companion to his crippled daughter, Princess Callisto, on the island of Siphnos. Anaxandra has adjusted to her new life when, six years later, fate again intervenes. Siphnos is sacked by pirates, and she is the sole survivor. When a fleet of ships stops on the island to investigate, she assumes the identity of Princess Callisto in order to survive.

The ships belong to Menelaus, great king of Sparta, and he takes her back to Sparta with him. But Helen, beautiful wife of Menelaus, does not believe that this red-headed child is Princess Callisto. Fearful of the half-mortal, half-goddess Helen, Anaxandra refuses to fall under her spell. She manages to stay out of harm’s way – until the Trojan princes Paris and Aeneas arrive. When Menelaus and his men depart to attend his grandfather’s funeral, Paris and Helen’s passionate affair plunges Sparta and Troy into war. Can Anaxandra find the courage to reinvent herself once again, appease the gods and save herself?

In Caroline B. Cooney’s epic tale of one girl’s courage and will to survive, Anaxandra learns that home is where you make it and identity goes deeper than just your name.

Helen bandaged the wounded. I thought she did not touch those grisly wounds to heal them, but to have blood upon her hands.

My Thoughts: So I’ve come to the decision that the very first review on my sparkling new blog is going to be … in point form. That’s just the way today is going.

· The cover on the left is not how I pictured Anaxandra at all, and the cover on the right is not what you think it is.

· Do your best to ignore that extraordinarily awkward synopsis. I personally found this book a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Part of that was probably because I started reading it after my failed attempt at reading Esther Friesner’s Nobody’s Princess, a book that left me desperate for a narration style that allowed for a little bit of subtlety, I mean honestly. I’m sure I could’ve whipped through that book before it was due back at the library, but I just couldn’t handle the thought of reading an entire novel that believes that every piece of dialogue has to be explained to you, multiple times if possible. Goddess of Yesterday does feature a bit of YA awkwardness (weird euphemisms, overdramatic punctuation, and actually a few scenes that could’ve used a bit more explanation), but overall I found it so much more readable than Nobody’s Princess.

· I almost feel that to include this book on a blog about the Trojan War is to misrepresent it; I have no idea where they get away with the subtitle “A Tale of Troy.” We don’t see Troy until page 166, and then the book ends on the second day of the war! I was surprisingly not bothered by this. There was enough going on in the story that I was never bored, and I liked that there are hints scattered throughout the novel of what will be waiting for the characters when they do get to Troy. Also, I admit that the odd timeline was a nice bit of fresh air, after reading so many novels that all cover the same scenes.

· I really enjoyed the way that familiar characters were given personalities different than what we’re used to seeing. Bloodthirsty Helen and Paris did get a little tiresome once I realized they weren’t going to be given any more depth than that, but I loved adorable chatterbox Andromache! I wonder if this is the first version of her I’ve seen where she doesn’t spend all her days just moping around the palace.

· I am so, so over the whole “Nobody believes Cassandra – except me!” thing. Look, either nobody believes Cassandra or they don’t*, but it doesn’t make sense for one special person (usually the protagonist) to believe her simply on the whim of the author. This book is definitely guilty of employing this tired trope, but at the same time I’m hesitant to condemn it for that, because Cassandra’s last scene might not have worked otherwise, and I have to say it was pretty awesome.

* I can’t figure out how to make this line work. You know what I mean.

· I’m not really down with the whole falling-in-lifelong-love-at-first-sight-at-the-age-of-thirteen thing. After I watched the recent Clash of the Titans (which I do not recommend, but my curiosity was too much to pass it up), I spent the entire rest of the day trying to figure out how to write stories based on Greek mythology without repeating some of its less appealing messages. (I was none too pleased with the way Clash of the Titans was apparently pretty cool with blaming the victim; see the scene where they clumsily explain Medusa’s backstory.) I confess I’m not bothered to the same extent by Anaxandra’s love life, but once again it’s making me think. (But having said all that, I was actually quite happy with the end of this book. Me and my conflicting emotions.)

· Sort of continuing the above point, I love that Anaxandra adores Medusa!

· Overall I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it, so long as you’re okay with it devoting more time to Anaxandra’s story than to the story of the Trojan War.

Buy it at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca

Poor Troy. You too have left your gates open.
Paris will destroy you.

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