Why I read it: The cover caught my eye, then I read the description and knew I had to read it. I entered a goodreads giveaway and got lucky.
Release date: February 14, 2017 (today!)
Who I’d recommend it to: YA and historical fiction fans, especially if you want to read about warrior women. People who enjoyed the show Xena: Warrior Princess.
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 well earned stars
What it’s about:
Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.
On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.
I seriously had to take about 12 hours to calm myself down after I finished this before I could even try to start this review. To be completely honest, I’m almost a little sad that I’ve read it already, because now I’m going to have to wait so long for the sequel!
The thing that drew me to this first, as I said, was the cover. I’m not actually a fan of cover models, in general, but I saw this and thought, “Huh. She looks like a female gladiator.” So I read the description and knew I was going to have to read this ASAP. The description sounded so great, and the book did not disappoint.
I honestly loved Fallon for most of the book, and her relationship with Elka, the Lady Achillea, and the other gladiatrices was awesome. It was so nice to read about girls competing against each other for something other than a boy, and I think the friendship between Fallon and Elka was awesome. They really reminded me of sisters (which is what the gladiatrices are supposed to be like for each other). The dynamics between all the gladiatrices pretty much went as expected for sisters, too. There were rivalries (both friendly and not), jealousy, respect, loyalty, and love. I feel like this had really good representation for female friendships, and I liked that about this book.
Reading about female gladiators was so fascinating, and I almost forgot I was reading fiction a few times. I’ve wondered if there were female gladiators, but I think (from my brief googling) it had been debated a lot for a long time, but now we can reasonably assume they did exist, we just don’t have much record of them.
The romance doesn’t take up as much of the plot as I expected, and I wanted to scream my love for this book from the rooftops for that. I like romance alright, sometimes, but I’m just tired of it being such a huge part of nearly every plot of nearly every book I read. The romance is there, and it’s somewhat important, but it’s honestly more like a sub-plot, and I’m so happy about that, even though I’m kind of rooting for Fallon and Cai, now. I think I read somewhere that it was an “insta-love” thing with them, but I disagree. The amount of time that passes isn’t all that short, if I remember correctly. I mean, it is a bit short, but I think it was long enough so they’d have had time to actually develop feelings for each other.
From what little I know about ancient Rome, the history was accurate, or at least totally believable. While I was reading this, I felt like Lesley Livingston really put a lot of effort into research for the story, and that made the reading experience so much better. I kept making notes of things to look up, and it was a blast for me, because I’ve always loved history.
The world didn’t really leap off the page for me, but I didn’t actually notice that until after I’d finished reading (and calmed down). There were details, and I definitely got a vague image in my head for all the places we see in the book, but the characters are what truly shine about this book. I think I would have liked maybe a few more details about some things, like the arena at the end, but I was perfectly fine with how it was written, so that’s not a complaint.
This has been shelved as fantasy, but…I didn’t really get much of a fantasy vibe. There are a few odd things that happen involving the goddess Fallon’s people worship (The Morrigan), but I’m hesitating to call this fantasy. Maybe historical fiction with the tiniest dash of fantasy?
I have to recommend this book, and I have a feeling I’ll be doing so a lot. It was just so good, and I think it might have helped banish the book funk I’ve been in for a few weeks. I just couldn’t put it down after things got started, because it was fast paced and so much was happening. It’s just really good, and is probably making the top 3 or so of my favorites this year.
If you’ve already read it, what did you think? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you will? If you love it as much as I did, feel free to come scream about it with me!