THE VALIANT is a strong start to a fast-paced YA series about young warrior women!
Who needs love this Valentine’s Day when you can have warrior princesses, epic battles, social scheming, and Roman debauchery? And yes.. Some love. Get ready to have some feelings for The Valiant!
Lesley Livingston’s historical fantasy adventure introduces us to Fallon, a Celtic warrior princess who wants nothing more than to join her father’s royal war band. That all changes in one traumatic night as Fallon is denied her dream and captured by slavers. After an arduous journey, she ends up in Rome and finds out she won’t be just any slave: She’s sold as a female gladiator (or gladiatrice) fighting in behalf of Julius Caesar in his arenas. Fallon wants nothing more than to earn her way out of the deadly arenas, but it will take ruthless training, outwitting mysterious enemies, social strategy, and fighting her own attraction to a certain Roman soldier to get closer to what she wants.
We seriously enjoyed this story because it grips you early on. Many stories spend a hefty chunk of time in backstory land before introducing the action and plot, but The Valiant dives in right away. The author builds the world while simultaneously introducing the plot, using historical knowledge and a dash of creativity to craft two intricate societies. From the first few pages, you’re always curious about the next twist and once Rome comes into play, the spectacle really begins! History isn’t implicit about whether or not gladiatrices actually existed at the height of the Roman empire, but it works so well for this story, we don’t care one bit.
Fallon is a strong, clever character with just the right amount of vulnerability. She’s not a tough girl cardboard cutout, but she’s got plenty of justifiable anger and she’s not going to keep it to herself. She also faces plenty of adversity, some of which feels a little more justified than others, and soon learns she’s not the mythic warrior she thought herself to be. Her level of savvy is slowly cultivated or earned, which makes her truly enticing.
Of course, it helps to have rich secondary characters with big personalities that keep Fallon going. We especially loved fellow slave turned gladiatrice bestie Elka, the ice to Fallon’s fire. Elka comes from a different warrior culture and has been a slave through most of her life, but she’s got wit and guts to spare. We were also impressed by the quiet power of the head of the gladiatrice facility, Lady Achillea, and Fallon’s naughty in-house pseudo-nemesis, Nyx. It was also super amusing to see these fictional characters interact with real figures from history, but we won’t spoil too much there.
The story focused on the action and history but also featured just the right amount of romance with Decurion Caius Varro aka Cai, a young soldier whose loyalty to Caesar must come above all else. Attraction definitely shimmers off the page and there’s plenty of tension in this book, but the romance seems like it’s going to be a slow burn that intensifies as the story continues. Cai is charming and we really felt his mixed emotions, but we actually like that their romance isn’t the dead-set focal point.
While we really dug this book, we did struggle here and there. At one point, there’s minor storyline involving a cult brought into the mix and frankly, we don’t think it fit in well with the rest of the novel at all. There’s also a character that seems to be kept around for the sake of convenience, dismissing some actual value his end would have had toward Fallon’s trajectory. Still, we loved the pacing, characters, and grit of The Valiant and we’re on board for the next book!
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS
The Valiant hits shelves on February 14, 2017. You can pre-order now via Amazon.
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.