Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Review: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Title: The Valiant
Series: The Valiant #1
Written by: Lesley Livingston
Published: February 21, 2017 by Razorbill (Penguin)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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.

I am a big fan of historical fiction, as I'm sure many of you who have been around are aware. But I think sometimes we see the same kind of stories and the same kind of settings when you read a lot of historical fiction. I'm always looking for something different which is why I was so excited for The Valiant. Female gladiator? Sign me up!

And as historical fiction, this was a great book. I love my historical fiction to take real events and real people and then intertwine their own character and plot around that. That's what The Valiant did. It took the setting of Ancient Rome under Julius Caesar and the gladiators and worked a story around that. It was so interesting to run across Caesar and some of the other Senators and even get a little bit of the political intrigue of the time. Although if I'm being entirely honest, my politics loving self would have liked a bit more of that but I do understand that wasn't the focus. The actual setting of Rome was just a jumping off point but it still felt like an interesting and I could visualize what it might have been like as the center of the world.

The actual focus of this book was the gladiators. So much of the "world" here was exploring what life was like for gladiators and especially gladiators in training. It looked at every aspect of how someone could have become a gladiator, from the capture and selling into slavery to the earning your spot in the arena. It seems like the author did her research into what it was probably like for the gladiators. And the reason I say this is because to be entirely honest, it wasn't super exciting. It was interesting and engaging but it wasn't all gory fight scenes and heroic battles. In that respect it felt realist and much more historical.

But that being said, the plot did kind of suffer from that realism. It's a silly thing to say that a book wasn't exciting because it was realistic but that's kind of how I felt. When you go into a book about gladiators you expect there to be some epic fight scenes and some unexpected deaths. And don't get me wrong, there was but it took it's sweet time to get there. The first third of the book was all a travel montage, and you guys know I hate a travel montage. Then the second half of the book was a training montage, which was interesting but I kept waiting to get to the good stuff. It was only in the last third of the book did I get what I came here for. But I do think that because there wasn't a ton of action scenes when there was a big fight I appreciated it a little bit more because I wasn't being desensitized to it. And I know it's good that there was a slow build up to a thrilling conclusion but it was definitely a slowly paced book and didn't have the action and adventure as I was expecting.

What I think redeemed this book a lot was the characters. I really enjoyed the main character of Fallon. She was complex and interesting in a way that I really appreciated. In one respect, Fallon is a warrior, she wants to fight and be tough just like the men. But she is also vulnerable and feels an incredible amount of guilt for what she does. It seems like a contradiction to say that I wanted more fighting but I respected the main character for not being all about the blood and death but it's true. She was a balanced and complex character and those are the best ones. I also really enjoyed Fallon because everything she was doing, she was doing for herself. She was completely herself and I liked that. Plus much of the story was about freedom. Even before she became a slave and a gladiator Fallon wanted to be who she wanted to be and that didn't go away throughout the book, it got stronger. That made it easy to connect with her and to root for her throughout the book. Plus it's a little bit of a character driven story too. It had a good balance.

On the whole I enjoyed The Valiant. It's not the kickass blood and guts gladiator story I was expecting. It's more of a subtle look at what gladiators endured and the story of a young woman fighting for herself and her freedom.

I give The Valiant by Lesely Livingston 9 out of 10 stars

But/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. Fans of historical fiction should check this out. If you are looking for a unique setting and an interesting story then pick up a copy of this book. If you want something with a ton of action and fighting, this might not be the book for you.

Have you read The Valiant? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping buy and HAPPY READING!


  1. So 9 out of 10? I'm very tempted to get the audiobook for this one and check it out...

    1. Oh? Who narrates it? And I just looked, it's Fiona Hardingham. Do it. Listen and let me know how it is.