by Lesley Livingston
Published on February 14, 2017 by Razorbill
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
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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.
Bring on the gladiators! I was really excited for The Valiant because I LOVE the TV show Spartacus and seeing the roles reversed by female warriors is like the dream. But while this book as received a lot of praise and had some great elements, ultimately it just wasn’t working for me and threatened a DNF several times over.
The beginning of the story moves quick which I understood because Livingston has to get Fallon to the arena from her village. But even with the quickened pace, the story trudged on at a snail’s pace and I felt like I was waiting forever for her to reach the training grounds. I put The Valiant aside several times in favor of other books before finally forcing myself to just read it.
In all honesty, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t make myself read it, it just didn’t draw me in at any point. I never felt the hook or strong desire to keep reading. The importance of showing Fallon before she becomes a gladiatrix played its role but it took too long to get through and I lost interest.
One thing this book did excel at was the relationships between the characters. Well, the non-romantic ones. There’s a real depth to each of these characters that made them almost real (I never felt a complete connection to any of the characters as they all seemed to be a little extreme in some way or another). But the friendships between the women are strong and I loved that it played such a role in the story. Also Lady Achillea. That’s all I’m going to say about her but just keep her in mind if you read this book.
But like I said, the romance? Not so good. Insta-lovey in all its finest. Thankfully it didn’t overrun the story but I didn’t need it. I was much happier with the friendships. Let’s have more of that in young adult fiction!
Now it’s definitely clear that Livingston did a lot of research for this book and I appreciated the authenticity she tried to bring to life within The Valiant. If only that had gone into the “plot twists.” They became more and more predictable as the book went on until I once again lost interest.
It was a common issue with this book, finding other things to read.
Part of me wonders if I just wasn’t in the right mood to read this book but I did enjoy some parts of it. I’m not sure how I feel about Livingston’s writing style, especially around the end which was a bit too convenient in how neatly everything wrapped up. I felt a bit cheated after pushing through the rest of the book, only to have it just end. It didn’t feel over yet, like there was something missing that got cut.
It’s probably pretty obvious that I had my issues with The Valiant and don’t necessarily think all the excitement surrounding this book is warranted, but it wasn’t a terrible book. I was just… bored with it.