Action/Adventure

The Valiant: Fierce Gladiatrix Leaves Her Mark on History

4.5/5 Stars

Author: Lesley Livingston

Publisher/Imprint: Razorbill

Edition: Hardcover, 372 Pages

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

A Spine that Shines? Absolutely!

Initial Thoughts

The Valiant is the first installment in a historical fiction trilogy about Fallon, a Celtic princess who is captured, taken to Rome, and transformed into a female gladiator. This was also my first Lesley Livingston book. I have to say, I’m impressed! It is thrilling and action-packed all the way through. The rapid pace successfully held my attention. The world-building is enough to convey the brutal, mythical atmosphere of Ancient Rome. Livingston even gives us appearances from Julius Caesar and Cleopatra! How exciting! The gladiatrix training school perhaps echoes some elements of The Hunger Games. I believe fans of An Ember in the Ashes would also enjoy this book immensely.

The Characters & Romance

Here is a brief overview of my favorite characters:

  • Fallon is, of course, the Celtic princess. She mourns the loss of Sorcha, her sister, at the hands of the Romans. At first, she deems all Romans to be her mortal enemies. She’s fierce and determined to hold her head high, no matter the situation or the threats issued from the other gladiatrices-in-training. I admired her spirit and loyalty to her family.
  • Decurion Caius Varro is Fallon’s love interest. There were aspects about the romance that I liked, and aspects that I didn’t. I do think Fallon and Cai make a good pair. However, considering the recent tragedy that occurs in the beginning of the book, the timing of their relationship feels off. It doesn’t seem like Cai knows Fallon long enough before making her the huge offer that he does. In my opinion, I liked Cai and thought the romance was sweet, but I also felt I didn’t get to know Cai very well in this book. Perhaps he will become more well-rounded in the sequel.
  • Elka is Fallon’s gladiatrix sister. She is gruff on the outside, yet lovable on the inside. They almost kill each other upon their first meeting, but of course, they end up becoming BFFs.

Final Thoughts

There were a few things that bugged me and prevented me from giving the book 5 stars:

  • The author tends to unnecessarily repeat information, such as explaining who a person is, when we’ve already been given this information in a previous scene. And these descriptions are often interjected into the middle of the sentences, a technique that sometimes impedes the writing flow.
  • Fallon’s interactions with Aeddan near the end of the book are not what I was expecting from her. She hardly thinks about enacting revenge upon him at the end. Given the earlier parts of the book, this does not make complete sense in my opinion.
  • Plus, there are several things in the end that feel unresolved. We don’t really learn who was leaving Fallon threats. What’s the deal with these mysterious political figures who have it out for Aquila, the mistress of the gladiatrix training school? And what happens with Fallon’s tribe? The tribe hardly plays any role in the story after the first part of the book. I’m guessing Livingston intends to address more of these aspects in following books.

Overall, the ending was exciting and provided a satisfying conclusion, aside from the items mentioned above. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Fallon and her sisters in the sequel! Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this review helpful!

Spines that Shine

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