Different Slant on Sparta
Most novels (and motion pictures) dealing with Sparta dwell mostly on the military aspects of this strange society, and rightly so--Sparta may have arguably produced history's most formidable soldiers. Helena Schrader's "A Peerless Peer" takes a different tack. Schrader's approach is to create a story rich in the detail of relationships, from the inevitable rivalries between the Royal houses to the more mundane lives of the Spartan state serfs known as Helots.
Leonidas, the future king and hero of Thermopylai, is the main character. The novel (second in a trilogy) follows his life after he becomes an adult in the Spartan army. In intricate and at times speculative detail, Schrader builds a very human portrait of this legendary king while contrasting him with his brothers, especially his twin Cleombrotus. Through a myriad of experiences and interactions, Leonidas' character is built, layer upon layer, revealing his altruism, courage and personal integrity in a society where virtue was the ultimate measure of a man.
The character of Gorgo, his future wife, is developed as richly as Leonidas. She is precocious, headstrong, intelligent, and a driving force in the story. All the other players of the era are addressed from Cleomenes to Aristogoras, adding a Herodotean authenticity to the novel.
This is a highly recommended "must read" for anyone interested in ancient Sparta.
Thank you, Jon!