The myth of Apollo and Daphne is problematic at best, another in a long line of stories of seemingly helpless women ensnared by gods behaving badly and forced to die or otherwise transform—in the story, she is turned into a laurel tree rather than give in to the god’s advances—in order to keep her virtue. Claire M. Andrews’ Daughter of Sparta series turns this story on its head, giving Daphne the strength and agency she has historically been denied (and rewriting several famous Greek myths in the process).
Where the eponymous first novel in the series sees Daphne battle Nix, the Goddess of Darkness, on a quest to save Sparta and forge a very different (and entirely consensual) relationship with the Sun God, sequel Blood of Troy will insert its heroine into the world of the Trojan War. Sent by Zeus to guard his daughter Helen (yes, that Helen), she’ll have to use all her skills as a warrior to keep her queen safe, and solve the mystery of why the gods of Olympus are so interested in the outcome of this war—and in her.
Here’s how the publisher describes the story.
A year after Daphne saved the powers of Olympus by defeating Nyx, the Goddess of Darkness, she’s haunted by still-looming threats, her complicated feelings for the god Apollo, and the promise she made to the Olympian gods that she would help them again when they called upon her. When their command comes, it is deceptively simple: secure herself a spot as one of Queen Helen’s guards.
A war is coming, and all of Sparta must be prepared.
In the midst of a treaty summit among the monarchs of Greece, Daphne and Helen uncover a plot of betrayal—and soon, a battle begins. As the kingdoms of Greece clash on the shores of Troy and the gods choose sides, Daphne must use her wits, her training, and her precarious relationship with Apollo to find a way to keep her queen safe, stop the war, and uncover the true reason the gods led her to Troy in this thrilling sequel to Daughter of Sparta.
Blood of Troy hits shelves on Tuesday, September 6, from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. But we’re thrilled to be able to present an exclusive excerpt from this highly anticipated sequel now, which sees Daphne get a new assignment from the gods.
BLOOD OF TROY Excerpt
By Claire M. Andrews
“We have a task for you,” Zeus says, voice rumbling around the pantheon.
“Oh?” I ask dryly.
I don’t fail to notice the tic forming in his jaw. “There will be an agon in Sparta to be among Helen’s personal guard.”
A frown pinches the space between my brows. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
In a society as fiercely competitive as Sparta, agons are as often and expected as the seasons. Though, never one with a prize so significant.
“I may or may not have given the anassa an idea while she was daydreaming.” Aphrodite waves a hand through the air.
“Why do you care about mortal games?”
“Not out of boredom, I assure you,” Zeus says. “We want you to win it.”
The pinched line between my brows threatens to become a permanent feature. “Why?”
Zeus ignores my question and points to Hephaestus. “We will outfit you with whatever you need.”
“I need nothing from you to win. What I need is to know why.” I square my shoulders.
Poseidon rises. “You will hold that insolent tongue and do as you’re told or—”
“Or what?” I cut him off. “You’ll turn one of my brothers into a fish?”
“Daphne, please.” Hades’s gaze is pleading. “Be reasonable. Do we ask anything of you without purpose?”
“Why am I not allowed to know what that purpose is?”
“Because I damn ordered your obedience, you foolish mortal,” Zeus barks, slamming a fist into the arm of his throne hard enough to make the entire pantheon tremble. Dark storm clouds roll in from behind him, shrouding the entire sky. The gods glance among one another. Wind whips around me, yanking my hair from its braid and threatening to toss me aside.
Hestia looks up from where she sits beside the hearth. She raises both hands, undulating them in a gentle wave motion and stopping them before her chest, palms facing toward her brother. Zeus’s face softens and the clouds rapidly recede. Poseidon’s fury has not lessened, though. The anger on his face is enough to make me tremble. With a snap of his fingers, he could level all of Sparta.
Apollo rises and my breath catches. He walks slowly toward me—eyes unreadable but never leaving my own— before moving to stand at my back. Surprise flickers in my chest. Despite whatever it is between us, his presence is a comforting warmth. He meets Poseidon’s gaze evenly, frown for frown.
“You proved yourself last summer,” Zeus says with a sigh, leaning back. “And as such, I would wish for no other to personally protect my daughter.”
“Your daughter?” I inhale sharply. “Anassa Helen is your daughter?” I’ve heard the rumors, just as everyone in Sparta has, but had given them no worth. Stories of Helen’s mother, Queen Leda, seduced by a god. Two of Leda’s children blessed by Olympus and two the image of a mortal king. How the stories forced the queen into hiding the moment her daughter ascended the throne five years ago.
Hera’s expression has darkened considerably. I didn’t think it possible for the glower to carve deeper into her face. The glare she gives her husband could melt stone. Even Hades cringes when he glances Hera’s way.
Zeus ignores his wife. “We have reason to believe that Helen could be in danger. Menelaus has called all the Achaean kings to Sparta for a conclave. After the agon, all the rulers of Greece will descend upon my daughter’s palace like locusts. Protect her, and your family will know wealth, power, and prestige beyond your wildest dreams.”
His offer means nothing to me, but I cannot deny the need to protect Helen. I chew the inside of my cheek while in my mind a war brews. I press, “Have you heard something that makes you believe that she will be in danger at this conclave?”
Zeus considers me a long moment, but it is Athena who speaks. “We’ve been unable to enter the Mycenaean palace for a number of years, particularly the bedchambers and council chambers, which leads us to believe there are other Olympian powers at play here. Only recently did we hear whispers of the conclave.”
This only fills me with a hundred more questions. “How is that possible? Why would Helen be in any danger from an Olympian?”
“What a fool.” Hera’s eyes roll up to the clouded sky.
“She is my daughter,” Zeus says, as if the answer were obvious. “And your queen.”
“And you’re the one who foiled Nyx.” Hera’s lips curl back.
“She will want revenge, Daphne,” Demeter says, face pained. “Against you and Olympus. We don’t know where or whom she will attack first. The Nyx we knew centuries ago was nothing short of vengeful, cutting down anyone she thought stood between her and her vendettas.”
“She will rain darkness upon Sparta until nothing remains but bones,” Apollo says, voice harsh.
Gaping, I turn to him. My heart pounds in my ears, so loud I do not hear anyone’s next words. This time when I look at him, he doesn’t tear his gaze away. I cannot read what his eyes say, what his lips will not.
The gods continue conferring around me. I may have defeated Nyx before, but that was due to nothing but sheer luck. I was dying, broken in body and full of a venom with no cure. If it hadn’t been for Artemis’s silver bow, Nyx would have continued on her path. And if it hadn’t been for Apollo’s golden bow, my soul would still be in the Underworld. A silver bow to take life, and golden to bestow it. Only once, though.
Now both are as useless against a god as a mortal weapon.
I merely wounded Nyx, and she left to lick her wounds and bide her time. To continue to plot Olympus’s downfall, and unleash calamity upon the mortal world.
I have no desire to be another pawn in the gods’ games, but I can- not refuse the order to protect Helen. Not when her life could be at risk because of my mistakes. I may be a Mothakes, not a true Spartan, but Helen is still my queen.
I take a knee, bowing low to the earth before Zeus. “Your daughter will be safe under my protection. I would lay down my life for the Anassa of Sparta.”
Apollo shifts behind me.
“Of that, we have no doubt,” Demeter says softly. The stunning goddess of the harvest blesses me with an encouraging smile.
I look to each of the gods, my gaze resting the longest on the empty seats. “And if they come after me? Hermes, Ares, and Nyx? Will you protect me?”
There’s no response.
Not waiting any longer for an answer, I stand and raise my chin high. With a curt nod, I spin on my heel.
Lykou asked what the gods still hold over me. I, like Spartans, am made of metal and fire, but even a raging kiln can only take so much before its fire is extinguished. When I turn for one last look at the god of the sea, Poseidon’s gaze meets mine.
I still answer to the gods because not even Sparta could withstand the wrath of Olympus.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.