Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book 2: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Book 2:
Starcrossed, Josephine Angelini

Helen Hamilton, a shy Nantucket teenager, starts having strange dreams and hallucinations of three weeping women about the same time that the extended Delos family moves to the island. Then, she finds herself drawn to Lucas Delos, and she wants to kill him. After they save each other’s lives, that stops, and quickly they seem to start falling in love. Amidst this, the Delos family reveals that they are descended from the Greek god Apollo, and Helen is descended from a different god, making them all Scions. The Delos family – a part of House Thebes – helps train Helen so she can master her newfound powers, especially so she can protect herself, as others try to kill her, like the Delos’ cousin Creon. Helen and Lucas fall in love, but it turns out that they can’t be together because if that happens they might start a new Trojan War. Then Daphne, Helen’s mother, reappears, trying to get Helen to safety. Before Helen can share this information, Creon attacks. The Delos clan works with Helen and her mother – the last of House Atreus – to fight Creon, and Hector Delos kills him. Daphne reveals that there are other Scions from the other two houses still alive, which means that Lucas and Helen could be together. However, Daphne has told Helen that her true father was Ajax Delos, making her and Lucas cousins. As revealed essentially to the reader only, though, Ajax died over a year before Helen was conceived, so Daphne lied. Finally, the entire group learns about Helen’s strange dreams, which indicate that she can descend into the land of the dead. The book ends with the reader wondering who Helen’s real father is, whether she and Lucas will figure it out and be together, and what it means for Helen’s future that she is a Descender.

Use of myths:

Angelini uses myths in a variety of ways. First, there’s the plot. Helen, as well as the Delos family and their nemesis Creon, is descended from gods. The Fates keep pulling her toward Lucas, who should have been named Paris, and implying that they are destined to restart the Trojan War.

Second, Angelini follows certain components of the hero’s journey. As seen in the chart below, it applies to the main parts of Helen’s experience. One part that does not take place at one particular moment but overall throughout the book is that of atonement. The Scions live atoning for the mistakes of their ancestors, and it is only once they have paid their debt – by saving the lives of other Scions – that they don’t see the Furies and aren’t consumed by that hatred for each other. They pay for those mistakes regularly, and not at just at one moment.

Call to Adventure
Delos family moves to the island
Supernatural Aid
Helen discovers her supernatural powers, sees the Furies whenever the Delos family is around, and starts having nightmares
Threshold Guardian(s)
Helen and Lucas save each other from a near-death experience and stop seeing the Furies; Helen learns she is a Scion
Acquires a helper
Delos family begins to train and help Helen
Experiences challenges and temptations
Helen trains with the Delos family and develops a relationship with Lucas, but she is unsure of his feelings for her, as he never fully makes a move. Helen learns about the Hundred Cousins and Creon.
Has a great revelation at the abyss (death/rebirth)
Helen learns about what could happen if she and Lucas get together – they look like Helen of Troy and Paris and could possible restart the Trojan War. They stay apart from one another and Helen masters her lightening skills. They see each other again and decide they have to be together.
Goes through a transformation
Daphne (Helen’s mother) reappears and kidnaps Helen to tells her about her and their past. Helen prepares to leave the island with Daphne and leave the Delos family and her loved ones behind
Daphne proposes collaboration between the two Houses, thus allowing Hector to remain with other Scions, his family to retain contact with him, and the Delos family to keep working closely with Daphne and Helen. Daphne and Jason reveal that Helen is a Descender, and that she is the first one in a millennium.

Third, Angelini uses archetypes. The core one in the novel is the starcrossed lovers. No matter what Helen and Lucas do, they cannot stay away from each other but they cannot be together. At first, they all believe that if they do get together they will essentially restart the Trojan War and bring about the end of Western Civilization. Then, Daphne tells them that they are not the only two families left, so their marriage would not do that. However, she also tells them that Ajax was Helen’s father, making her and Lucas first cousins. Although Lucas’ aunt Pandora points out to Daphne that the date of Helen’s conception is after Ajax’s death – thus making it impossible for her to be a cousin – no one else seems to figure that our or point it out to Helen. In most cases of the starcrossed lovers, though, the lovers end up dead. This book provides a separation from that tradition.

This novel also contains other archetypes. Helen is the main character, but she does not act like most heroes, and it is even difficult to place all of the parts of the hero’s journey to her story in the book. However, she does put others ahead of herself, as seen when she worries that those going after her will hurt the people she cares about to get to her. On the other hand, Creon definitely serves as the villain. He uses his powers of shadow manipulation, as well as his own cruelty and cunning, to undermine Helen. In fact, his shadow powers allow him to remain literally hidden for a large amount of the story other than what Angelini shows the reader.

Along with the starcrossed lovers, these two roles make up the main archetypes in the novel.


Like the Percy Jackson series, Starcrossed features descendants of the Greek gods. Unlike that series, though, the characters in this book are multiple generations away from their god ancestor rather than the child of the god. Angelini provides another option for the possibility of the manifestation of the mythology in modern society. Unlike in Percy’s adventures, the characters of Starcrossed never directly interact with the gods. The closest they get is when they see the Furies, as well as the presence of the Oracle in Cassandra.

Unlike the Percy Jackson series, though, Starcrossed features the starcrossed-lovers motif. More than that, though, Angelini also includes influences of the Trojan War. First, Helen is descended from Helen of Troy. Second, she shares her ancestor’s name, and Lucas should have been named Paris. Third, for the majority of the novel they are under the belief that if they get together they will actually restart the Trojan War. The Trojan War was constantly in the back of my mind once I started picking up the allusions to it, and definitely plays a major role in the novel. It is almost as important as the presence of the gods.

As far as likeable heroines go, Helen wasn’t high on my list of favorites. I found it hard to connect with her and feel bad for her during her trials, but as the novel went on I warmed up to her. For me, though, the best part of the novel was the role of the Trojan War. I’ve always been a fan of the history of the Trojan War, and so I really enjoyed the allusions to it – as well as the actual threat of starting a new Trojan War. The indirect and direct references give Helen more depth as well as more sympathy from the reader. At the beginning of the novel, I wasn’t sold on Helen or what was happening to her, although I was extremely curious about what was happening to her. But by the end of the novel, I was completely hooked and wanted more. Luckily, there’s a sequel.

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