REVIEW: THE VALIANT

THE VALIANT
LESLEY LIVINGSTON
SERIES: THE VALIANT, #1
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: HISTORICAL, GLADIATORS, YA
★★★☆

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Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. 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 and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

 

Ancient Rome is always a really fascinating topic for books and movies — I absolutely love both the tv shows Spartacus and Rome — there are so many angles to take. Most things tend to focus on the men though (with a few notable women for flavor) and I’d never seen a story about female gladiators so I was really keen to read The Valiant.

I loved how detailed the world-building was — her home in Prydain, the perilous journey and adapting to life in Rome — I really felt like I was right there with Fallon. From all the little details on clothing, weaponry and little social ticks, you can really tell Livingston has done her research and has a genuine interest in the subject.

I really liked the other girls, especially Elka and Sorcha — who we see the most of — but the glimpses of the other Gladiatrixes and the cameo from Cleopatra herself were great. Even Nix, Fallon’s rival, was compelling. On the male side of things, the romance with Caius Varro fell a little flat for me, but I appreciated that the author took a bit of time to drag it out, rather than have Fallon immediately fall for her captor. Cai felt just a little too nice compared to everyone else, a little too bland compared to the other personalities but I liked that he and Fallon saw each other as equals — no creepy, controlling book-boyfriends here. Seeing Caesar was fun, even if a little unlikely, and I thought he was used just sparingly enough to maintain an aura of power.

I was a little worried as I approached the end because I didn’t see how Livingston would be able to fit a proper finale into the pages I had left — but, boy, did she ever. The final battle scene is wonderful and full of action. It tied everything up nicely without being too neat, and although there’s a sequel coming, The Valiant can totally stand on its own.

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