Author: Lesley Livingston
Release Date: February 14th, 2017!
*I picked up a physical ARC from the Penguin booth at ALA midwinter.
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.
How could I not pass on a book about female gladiators? One of my favorite TV shows is Spartacus, who was mentioned actually, I loved it. Though, at times the book felt like a paper and binding version of the show, rather than its own story. (But that could also be because I love the show and spent a long time obsessing over it that I saw it in this book). Badass women? Check. Ancient Rome? Check. I felt like I was there, it was so detailed and researched. A strong sisterhood? Check. Romance? Wait, why did this story need a romance? IT DIDN’T.
I could’ve done without it, tbh. I had more interest in the relationships between the female gladiators than I did in the budding romance between Fallon and Caius. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, Fallon finding some love in the midst of this dangerous life. But it was VERY underdeveloped and very flat. ALSO because of early events of the book, and no time for Fallon to move on from everything, I didn’t quite believe in their insta-lust. However, I did enjoy watching the two of them form a relationship. I just wanted MORE to it.
I think it bothered me more that it was given a higher importance than the close friendships Fallon forms with a few of the women at House Aquilla. Of course there were some gladiatrix who didn’t like her, and the environment they were in could be pretty hostile. But it didn’t feel like unnecessary drama. They’re not only competing inside the amphitheatre, but outside of it as well. Their lives are determined on how well of a show they put on and how many people of Rome like them and want to see them fight.
Fallon herself was a super easily likable character. She’d grown up a warrior, because of her culture and the fact that it was normal for women to also fight alongside the men (which I loved). So it gave her a bit of an edge, since she was already a fairly skilled fighter. But this place tests her beyond anything she’d ever faced. She’s forced to not only fight for her life but fight for her freedom and honor, her hopes and dreams. She lays it all on the line, time and again, proving to herself and to everyone that she is Victory. I adored this badass MC a lot.
The plot itself was incredibly engaging, and I was hooked from the beginning. It did take awhile for us to get to Rome, and to the heart of the story. I also called a twist or two, though it didn’t take away anything for me. I enjoyed this story so freaking much, and it was feministic at its core. I loved the characters and the banter. And I loved that I felt like I was in Ancient Rome, that there were cameos of historical figures, that someone decided to tell the story of the female gladiator. The Valiant was a book I never realized I’d been waiting for until I read it.