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Inside the Walls of Troy: A Novel of the Women Who Lived the Trojan War

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Helen is renowned as the most beautiful woman in the world. Her divine beauty will lead her to a lifetime of adventure—from her kidnapping at age 12, through an arranged marriage, to a passionate affair that will ultimately bring about the Trojan War.

Cassandra, the sister of Helen's true love, has the gift, or curse, to predict the future. When she foresees the ruin of her family and city, caused by Helen's arrival in Troy, she is outraged. Yet Cassandra cannot help being drawn...

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Overview

Helen is renowned as the most beautiful woman in the world. Her divine beauty will lead her to a lifetime of adventure—from her kidnapping at age 12, through an arranged marriage, to a passionate affair that will ultimately bring about the Trojan War.

Cassandra, the sister of Helen's true love, has the gift, or curse, to predict the future. When she foresees the ruin of her family and city, caused by Helen's arrival in Troy, she is outraged. Yet Cassandra cannot help being drawn to Helen, and as the war rages around them, the two young women develop a deep friendship.

Through their eyes, the classic tale of the Trojan War is retold in an immediate and fascinating way.

The events surrounding the famous battle between the Greeks and the Trojans are told from the points of view of two women, the beautiful Helen and the prophetic Cassandra.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
At the beginning of this two-part novel, twelve-year-old Helen of Sparta is already famous for her great beauty, but she would rather ride her horse or play knucklebones with her cousin, Penelope, than fulfill her destiny as the most beautiful woman in the world. Told in the first person, we first identify with Helen as she becomes the unwilling cause of the Trojan War. In part two, we identify with the Trojan princess, Cassandra, who foresees the tragedy that Helen will bring Troy but is won over by Helen's charm and innocence and becomes her friend during the long, terrible years of the Trojan War. The author convincingly retells the myths from a feminist perspective. An epilogue provides historical information on the period and events.
VOYA - Margaret Miles
McLaren uses the points of view of two of the pivotal female characters, Helen and Cassandra, to present the Trojan War from a somewhat different perspective. Helen, who tells the story until she sails away toward Troy, is a cheerful, sunny young girl who never really considers herself a beauty until the legendary hero Theseus kidnaps her for ransom and teaches her to look at herself differently. Even then, she's satisfied with a traditional and unemotional arranged marriage to Menelaus-until Prince Paris of Troy comes to visit. Cassandra, who continues the story, has been troubled for years by visions of future disaster, but has learned in the face of her family's disbelief to keep these premonitions, like her dream of the disaster Helen will bring to Troy, to herself. When Helen finally arrives, however, Cassandra finds herself sometimes unwillingly drawn to her, attracted by both Helen's appealing personality and her position as another outsider in the women's circle. Cassandra's perception of the powerlessness of women in her society, and the other women's refusal to understand this, troubles her as much as her visions. As the war escalates and the women watch death after death from their vantage point on the city walls, the feelings of powerlessness can only increase, until at the end of the war the only victory Cassandra can achieve for her younger sisters and Helen is to see that they survive as the Greeks sack the city. McLaren's novel offers an accessible introduction to the story of the Trojan war, with the added interest of the female perspective. Another distinctive feature of the novel which lends a very modern sensibility is the characters' attitude towards the gods-neither Helen nor Cassandra are really sure they believe most of the stories of divine intervention that they hear, and Paris clearly exploits such tales to his own self-serving advantage. As a result, the book's mood is predominantly historical rather than mythological, in contract to the dark and overt magic present in H. M. Hoover's The Dawn Palace (Dutton, 1988) or the fairy-tale atmosphere of Doris Orgel's The Princess and the God (Orchard, 1996). Helen, rather than the more obviously dramatic Cassandra, is the character who comes across the most strongly. McLaren succeeds particularly well in conveying the "innocence [and] capacity for joy" which she describes in her Author's Epilogue as part of her conception of Helen's appeal. This Epilogue is another of the book's strengths, briefly but clearly discussing the variant stories in different classical sources and explaining the novelist's reasons for choosing some options or interpretations over others. Inside the Walls of Troy provides a good next step for readers who have become intrigued by a basic retelling of the Iliad; older YAs who enjoy this novel may want to continue with Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Firebrand (Simon & Schuster), which uses Cassandra's story to examine the conflict between male- and female-dominated religious traditions in the Greek world. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10What was it like to be the beauteous Helen of Troy, or to be Cassandra, the unappreciated visionary? This novel tries to offer some answers. It begins in the mind of 12-year-old Helen, abducted but chastely treated by Theseus, sought after by a dozen contentious suitors, married lovelessly to Menelaus, and finallythe only act in which she has not been completely passiveenthralled by passion in the form of Paris. If Helen, the victim of her own beauty and rank, is not exactly a heroine, Paris is far from a hero. He, too, is passive, blaming his actions on the will of the gods particularly, Aphrodite, and is fonder of love and his own looks than he is of battle. Fortunately, almost two thirds of the novel is given to Cassandra. Her description of Helen as "bone sweet" does not, however, conform to the Helen we have met in Part I. Of course many readers will know the outcome of the story, but the accounts of battles, negotiations and stratagems, seen from within Troy, still manage to be suspenseful, and the ending is particularly deft. The writing is competent but not especially vivid and too often predictable; there is some clumsy exposition. Little differentiates the voice of Cassandra from the voice of Helen: both are misfits in their world, but their speech and thoughts lack individual identity. Nevertheless, the novel is carefully structured, there are some interesting historical details, and the idea of a woman's-eye view of The Iliad would seem timely. If this novel manages to introduce even a few more readers to the world of the ancient Greeks, it will be worth its shelf space.Patricia Dooley Lothrop Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Kirkus Reviews
A retelling of the Trojan War from the point of view of Helen and Cassandra never catches fire in this first novel.

The story is told in the first person, in Helen's voice in part one, Cassandra's in part two. All the familiar names are present: the strutting, moody Achilles; steady Odysseus; winsome Penelope; and Paris, whose promise from Aphrodite starts it all. McLaren portrays Helen as "bone sweet"—as lovable as she is beautiful—and Cassandra as tormented physically and emotionally by her visions of the future. Nearly all the action takes place offstage or in exposition, and the relationships among all the women, which are at the heart of the tale, are not fully realized or complete. Readers will be more engaged by these powerful Greek myths in Paul Fleischman's Dateline: Troy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440227496
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 8/15/1998
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 199
  • Age range: 12 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.17 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 0.66 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2007

    Troy

    This book was outstanding!! I finished it in 2 days. YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK IF YOU WANT A GOOD BOOK THAT YOU WILL NEVER WANT TO PUT DOWN!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2004

    The Greatest Love Story Ever Told!

    It is! The title explains it all. The story is about two women, Helen and Casandra, and this wonderful story is told through their eyes. A definite must!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2004

    interesting...and a little sad

    This focuses on two women, Helen and Cassandra. Don't know who Cassandra is? I don't expect you to, not many people pay attention to her. It's one of the issues in this book. I liked the Cassandra part better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2003

    inside the walls of troy

    this book was really good, and you can really get a little bit of the mythology too. i just didn't like how incomplete the ending was.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2003

    Been wanting to read this ever since it came out

    I've been wanting to read this book ever since it came out a few years ago but could never find to chance to search for it or buy it. When I moved to a new town for the school year, I wandered into the school library and saw this on the shelf. I immediately picked it up and proceeded to read. And let me tell you, it was everything I expected it to be and more. It gives a sweet, original twist to the Trojan Wars seen through the eyes of the two woman who lived through it. A great story for the History and Mythology lovers out there like me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2003

    Can you say AWESOME

    This book takes you through the passion of Helen and the pain of Cassandra. Both young women's point of view makes this book a continueous page turner!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2002

    This Is a Good Book

    This book is kinda interesting, but it is not very Eye catching at first.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2002

    Interesting and a Great Book

    First half of the book starts with Helen, beauty of the world, in 1st person and tells the story of her childhood adventure with Theseus etc. I would summerize some more but I'll spare those who do not already know the marriage of Helen. The Second half starts where it left off with Helen, through the eyes of Cassandra, the unbelievable prophetess, inside Troy. The events that occured inside the city of Troy are well described and Cassandra's visions shown in detail. I enjoyed this book very much and I would recommend it to ANYONE interested in Mythological/Historical Greek/Trojan Fiction. If you are not interested in this genre you may still enjoy this book because it's rich in detail and has an interesting look on ancient life for women.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2001

    BEST BOOK ABOUT THE TROJAN WAR EVER!!!!!!!!!

    I love anything I can find about the ancient people of Greece or Rome. This book is an excellant story about how the Trojan War supposedly came about. It begins with the perspective of Helen who is supposidly the most beautiful girl in the world. She tells that she doesn't want to be prim and proper but just ride her horses and play knucklebones with her cousin. In the next half we veiw the city of Troy through the eyes of Cassandra who is able to see the future, but has the curse of having nobody believe her horrible visions. When she forsees Helen arriving in Troy with her world famous brother Paris, she also sees the end of Troy approachig. The author perfectly dipicts history in this wonderful beautifully written book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2001

    One of the BEST books I've EVER read!!!!!!!

    I was never really interested in Troy (or Greece), until I read this book. It tells about many characters, who have never really had their stories told. Even the origonal writer, Homer, didn't talk much about the women envolved in the war at Troy!!! This book makes you feel like the characters are standing right next to you, asking for advice. Every time something happens to Helen or Cassandra, you hold your breath waiting for the outcome. I TOTALLY suggest you read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2000

    SUPER BOOK!!!

    This is one of the best books I've ever read!!!! I've read it at least 15 times now. If you like Greek history or are just wondering about the Trojan War this is a great book to read.

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