“Beneath everything else, buried in rubble and the fires of conquest, she was still her father’s daughter.”
For a debut, I was really impressed with this book. I don’t think Blood and Sand has gotten enough attention. So far, it is one of the best books of 2018 for me.
The setting is richly described in this book, and I like reading about places I’ve visited in the past. I could clearly picture the dusty streets of Rome, the Coliseum, the villa in Pompeii, and the fiery breath of Vesuvius. The atmosphere created fits nicely with the ancient aspect of the setting. Even in the flashbacks, I could picture Britannia and Thrace as lovely places that were devastated by the Romans.
There is never a dull moment in this book! It is certainly fast-paced and action-packed. Everything that happened made me want to keep reading and find out what happens next. The pace flows pretty smoothly and is a good balance between action and tender moments. I loved reading all the fighting sequences, especially when Spartacus and Xanthus fight together in the arena. I also think the POV changes between Attia and Xanthus are effective in creating suspense and keeping things moving. There was a good twist at the end, which I wasn’t entirely expecting.
Wow. These characters are amazing! There are a lot of them, but most of them felt well-rounded and multi-dimensional. I was rooting for the good guys the whole time. Timeus is a true villain!
Xanthus is a tough, but hurting, gladiator. He appears tough on the outside, but he truly grieves on the inside and seeks forgiveness for each life he takes. I also loved his genuine desire to be honest with Attia and respect her wishes.
Attia is such a strong woman! She really is the mighty warrior princess of Thrace! Her determination makes her so fierce. She just does not give up, and her losses make her even stronger. But I also really loved the sense of humor she has in the midst of all her sadness:
[Ennius:] “What are you doing?”
[Attia:] “Yes. Placing one foot in front of the other and moving forward.”
Xanthus’s brothers, the other gladiators, are so funny! One of my favorite parts is the scene where Iduma fights off some thugs while munching on/fighting with a ham bone.
Little Rory is also adorable, and I think Wyk builds a convincing bond between the child and Attia.
I think Wyk does a great job with the slow-burn romance. Attia and Xanthus are perfect for each other. The moments between these two warriors are sometimes just so tender. They are each other’s comfort, and the characters’ pain just makes them feel so real.
Ahhh. Like several other reviewers, I have mixed feelings about the end. It is action-packed. No doubt about that. I just really hope that that one thing that happened is not permanent. I think the author could easily reverse it and give an explanation for it in the sequel. Otherwise, I think I will be a bit disappointed. But I think the author probably will reverse it so that Xanthus can get his match against Decimus.
There are also several things that aren’t wrapped up at the end. Of course, I’m guessing the author plans to deal with these things in the sequel. It is unclear whether Timeus and his family escaped in the end. (I really wanted a big showdown between Timeus and Attia, but maybe that will come in the sequel.) It is also unclear exactly who Rory is and what is going on between Timeus’s household and the Flavians. I am really curious about the mystery surrounding Rory.
Content warnings: Blood and Sand does contain cursing here and there, including multiple occurrences of the “s” word. (Did those words even exist back then? I don’t really know.) The book also contains physical abuse and, of course, violence (i.e. decapitation) since gladiators are involved. So, I don’t think this book is for the youngest of readers.
But, overall, this is definitely a spine that shines!