Did Helen choose to run off to Troy with Paris, or did he force her to go with him? Two orphans of the Trojan War, the tragic conflict Helen’s elopement or abduction precipitated, search for the answer to one of the oldest questions in history—and discover much more.
Asymmetric Worlds has published Ron’s ninth novel, Helen’s Orphans, the winner of the gold medal in the LGBTQIA category of the 2020-2021 Reader Views Literary Awards.
The first chapter and more are free to read with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.
Reviews (to read the full review, please click on the link at the end of the excerpt):
“Tender. Compelling. A dazzling tale. History, myth, intrigue, and long-buried secrets mark this beautifully told tale. Fritsch’s extraordinary storytelling abilities shine as he brings to life the larger-than-life heroes and villains of Trojan war mythology. His portrayal of Agamemnon’s political ambition, Hector’s obliviousness to impending danger, the ill-fated duel between Hector and Patroclus, the showdown between Achilles and Hector, the tragic death of Paris all are evoked with skill and passion, as are individual struggles and personal conflicts. Helen is a greatly torn woman whose beauty and personal choices have tragic consequences on an epic scale. Fritsch is at his strongest when he portrays Helen as the gentle compassionate royal who makes it her life purpose to help the less fortunate orphans. The great mythic war between Trojans and Greeks is portrayed with skill and precision. The first-person narrative told in Helen and Timon’s voices is engrossing, and the continuous surprising reveals keep the reader invested throughout. The skillfully evoked era and meticulously researched period details, combined with the crisp, straightforward prose and smoothly paced narrative make for a page-turning story pulsing with romance, sacrifice, conspiracies, betrayals, and battles. Lovers of Greek mythology and historical fiction won’t want to miss this one.” The Prairies Book Review
“This 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.” Kirkus Reviews
“Timon and Lukas emerge as compelling characters. They share touching moments, such as when they sing together and discover a mutual love of music, and their eagerness to question Helen (“Did you find Paris attractive?”) is relatable. Fritsch crafts a detailed and immersive fiction that is charming in its minute detail. Helen’s point-of-view passages give the legend charm and agency. With an appeal to audiences versed in Greek myth, Fritsch’s new spin on a timeless tale will draw in readers with his sympathetic characterization and original inventions. Takeaway: A novel approach to an established classic, with an alternate ending that will please fans of Greek mythology.” BookLife
“Ron Fritsch did an amazing job creating this story. First of all, he presents a useful list of characters with descriptions of who they are. I frequently found myself referring back to this list. Then he tells the story by dividing it up according to who the narrator is. It alternates between Helen and Timon, who is one of the orphans. This format really made it easy to follow along. Fritsch also takes the time to develop the characters so that they go beyond being one dimensional. As he introduces us to their past, we gain a greater understanding of how they evolved, even if we still find them unlikable. Helen’s Orphans is written in a reader-friendly format that makes this Greek tragedy very easy to understand. I really enjoyed reading it and did so in a single sitting. As a person who delights in conspiracy theories, Fritsch’s alternative version of the Helen of Troy story fed that need quite well. Fans of Greek mythology and ancient history will really enjoy this novel.” Reader Views
“Fritsch spins a complex web of secrets and revelations that keep the reader engaged throughout. His plot lines are constantly moving forward to an inevitable collision. His ability to objectively examine alternative angles of a classical work is commendable.” The US Review of Books
Helen’s Orphans is the winner of a finalist award in the 2021 Book Excellence Awards.