Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Summary (from Goodreads):
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.

A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, "The Valiant" recounts Fallon s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire."
I loved this. The world needs more books where girls can kick this much butt. I wasn’t expecting to get quite as sucked into this as I did. I’m not usually the biggest historical fiction fan. But, I could not put this story down.
The setting and the background were just phenomenal. I loved getting such insight into ancient Rome. I wasn’t expecting so much of the book to be Fallon’s journey to Rome, but it was. And I found that journey just as interesting and riveting as her time spent training with the toughest girls around.  The author could have easily done a lot of info dumping, but she didn’t. And I appreciated being able to see the gladiator tournaments in my own mind’s eye.
I’ve never read a YA book to take place in this time period. I loved the idea of a female gladiator. And I loved learning that they weren’t entirely fictional –the author mentions a recent discovery about real life female gladiators. This made the story for me seem so much more possible. I could see women training to do what these characters did. I can see slaves being bought for this. I can see so much of this culture and this time period. And Livingston did a nice job writing all this.
I particularly loved the training part of the book. I loved witnessing the friendships formed, the fights fought, and rivalries grown. I also loved getting to meat Cleopatra. I loved the Roman names (I recognized a lot from my Rick Riordan reading). I loved the pacing of the book. Things happen quickly. And there’s just enough time left for secret romance and the random sneaking out for a party.
The romance wasn’t my favorite. I just never felt like Fallon and Cai had much of a chance to fall so hard for each other yet. I mean they had one kiss and Cai was willing to risk everything for her…I do like that Fallon is not willing to give up any of her life style for any man (first love, second love, or other). Maybe Cai’s character will be developed more later.
Also, the only other thing I have to say is that the book was very predictable. There were two major plot twists that I called early on. The first one didn’t bother me too much because the author timed it and clearly planned it very well. The second one kind of irritated me. But, we’ll see where it goes. All in all, the setting was awesome, the characters and friendships were great, and the plot was fast paced though predictable. I give it a 9/10.

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