- Page Count: 384
- Release Date: February 14, 2017
- Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
- My Rating: 4.5 stars
The youngest daughter of a proud Celtic king, Fallon has always lived in the shadow of her older sister Sorcha’s legendary reputation as a warrior. But when Fallon was a young child, the armies of Julius Caesar invaded the island of Britain and her beloved older sister was killed in battle.
On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her rightful place in her father’s royal war band. But she never gets the chance. Instead, Fallon is captured by a band of ruthless brigands who sell her to an exclusive training school for female gladiators—and its most influential patron is none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, Fallon’s worst enemy, the man who destroyed her family, might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, chilling threats and the dangerous attention of Caesar himself to survive the deadly fights that take place both in and out of the arena—and claim her place in history among the Valiant.
Definitely check out this book if you liked Throne of Glass or An Ember in the Ashes!! It’s a really fun YA historical fiction story (very little fantasy) about a group of badass teen female gladiatrices in ancient Rome.
Fallon starts out as the fierce warrior daughter of a Celtic king. She just wants to make her own name in battle and be named a warrior chief, but then she’s kidnapped and sold as a gladiatrix in Rome. Her older sister who trained her to fight was killed by the Romans, so Fallon’s not too fond of them. Except then a really cute one shows up and Fallon is all sorts of CONFLICTED… for a few chapters.
I don’t really want to say too much more about the plot because there’s a spoiler in the beginning and a big one in the middle that are kind of central to everything. So I’ll just say that Fallon trains with a group of girls who all fight for Caesar. (Yeah, as in Julius Caesar. He and Cleopatra show up). Cute Guy offers to buy Fallon’s freedom but she’s determined to earn it herself. Then someone keeps leaving crow feathers and dead birds as threatening messages to Fallon and she finds herself in a weird mess with powerful people.
Fallon’s guided by the Morrigan (the Celtic goddess of war/death), so I was TOTALLY into the book once any hint of Celtic mythology showed up. I really, really liked Fallon’s character, too. She was incredibly strong, flawed, and learned throughout the course of the story. And I did like the guy she fell in love with, but thought the actual romance itself escalated to full intensity out of nowhere (especially considering the events in the first few chapters).
I loved how sisterhood was such a central part of the story… both with family and friends. And I appreciated that this wasn’t the cliche plot of a girl out to kill everyone and/or overthrow the rulers for revenge. Fallon was fighting for herself, which was so great to see.
The battle scenes are pretty awesome, too!! Fallon’s sister always asked her if she was a weapon or a target, so that’s kind of a theme throughout the story. There’s this super impossible maneuver that nobody can do in battle except for Fallon… but not because she’s a super special snowflake. She can do it because she worked at it for years.
This book is very YA in that the story doesn’t waste any time getting started and never really slows down. It’s pretty fast-paced the whole way through, which is great because you’re never bored. Buuut that also means some of the relationships end up being a bit shallow. I’m not sure if those characters were just thrown in and will be established or used more in the next book, but I kind of wanted more in a lot of areas. Everything that happened was really interesting and I liked it all! It just flew by really quickly and kind of skimmed the surface of what it could’ve been.
The writing and main character were still strong, though! And the last half of the book really crammed in a ton for the sequels to build on, so this series seems like it will only get better.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC!