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HELEN'S ORPHANS by Ron Fritsch


by Ron Fritsch

Pub Date: Dec. 17th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-9978829-9-5
Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds

A novel offers a revisionist version of the Trojan War alternatingly narrated by Helen and a teenager in the Sparta orphanage that the beautiful woman supports.

Almost all of the characters, conveniently identified upfront, in Fritsch’s novel can be found in Homer’s The Iliad, but this is not an adventurous war tale extolling the glory of great warriors. And whereas in the traditional story the jealousies and pettiness of the Greek gods and goddesses played key roles in fomenting the war between the Greek kingdoms and the walled city of Troy, they are virtually absent in this narrative. It is human avarice, blood lust, arrogance—and love—that propel Fritsch’s anti-war story. Timon, a 17-year-old orphan, introduces himself to readers and begins the narration. It is 18 years after Helen (“the face that launched a thousand ships”), on what was to be the day of her marriage to King Menelaus, sailed away from Sparta with the Trojan Prince Paris, precipitating the 10-year sacking of Troy. Most of the children in the Sparta orphanage lost their parents in that war. Only Timon is of totally unknown parentage. As a young child, he bonded with Lukas, another orphan his age: The two were “always side by side like a pair of young oxen.” Now, they are lovers and musical soul mates, committed to spending their lives together. Singers and eventually composers, they write ballads mourning the tragic aftermath of an unnecessary war. Their love story offers the most joyous, tender, and poignant sections of the tale. Fritsch quickly sets up the back-and-forth narrative pattern for the imaginative novel, immediately leaping 18 years into the past and handing narration over to Helen. She has just arrived in Troy with Paris and asserts that she does not want to be returned to Greece. Helen is convinced that the Greek kings would never be so foolhardy as to start a war over her. Readers witness the battles through the eyes of this young woman who has allegiances to both sides but is determined to help the Trojans defend their city. Late in the tale, the author offers readers a surprise. Proficient, modern prose and dialogue, enhanced by lifestyle details, make an ancient epic especially accessible.

An enjoyable, inventive Trojan War tale with an intriguing final twist and a serious message.