The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston
The Valiant was one of my weekend reads and a book that I couldn’t put down. I have a bit of a hit and miss record with YA. Quite often I find that the story lacks the attention to detail that I enjoy and that I feel helps to build the world and on top of that love triangles and instalove more often than not are the flavour of the day. Fear not in terms of either of those quibbles when picking up this book. Livingston has bought to us a gripping story about a young woman who, against her own will, becomes a gladiator. This is well written, uncluttered and fast paced. The characters are well drawn, particularly the leading lady and on top of all of that it brings the opportunity to read a highly entertaining narrative set in a period of time that I really enjoy reading about.
The story begins with an introduction to Fallon as she trains out in the country with her childhood friend Mael. Mael and Fallon’s relationship has grown over the years and both of them have feelings of love for each other. Fallon, however, is determined to follow in the footsteps of her sister Sorcha. Sorcha was killed in battle, fighting the Romans. Fallon longs to be part of her father’s war band and on the day of her 17th birthday she believes her wishes will finally come true. Unfortunately for Fallon things go deeply amiss and although I won’t spoil for you the whys and wherefores Fallon finds herself captured by slavers and shipped off to Rome to be sold to the highest bidder. One minute Fallon thought her dreams were a hair’s breath away and the next she was snatched from her world and everything she knows.
So, Fallon is sold to a school for gladiators – nothing could offend her honour more. Worse than that – the school is directly owned by Julius Caesar, a man who Fallon despises and blames for the death of her sister. Fallon finds herself trying to survive in a school which, in spite of the veneer of sisterhood, has fierce rivalries bubbling just beneath the surface. Through no fault of her own Fallon finds herself on the receiving end of some rather harsh attention from the other females of the school and although you might expect her biggest challenge to be surviving in the gladiator’s arena it some becomes apparent that Fallon will first of all need to survive the training! On top of that Fallon has attracted the attention of one of the Roman soldiers and much to her dismay she finds herself becoming attracted to him in return – I will stress, that this romance is not an integral part of the book, it isn’t the main focus of the story and is really well paced! (Just thought I’d chuck that out there).
Why did I love this. I think that the author has managed to find the perfect balance in so many respects. Her writing gives you a flavour of the Roman empire without being over burdened with flowery prose or heavy descriptions. She throws in characters that we know about already such as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra but shines a slightly different light on their characters. Her main character Fallon, is very easy to like. She’s also incredibly foolish and gullible sometimes but nobody’s perfect after all! Fallon struggles with her training, she has some ability as a fighter but is in no way perfect. What she does have as a character is ‘heart’. She’s been raised as the daughter of one of the Celtic Kings and as such she has a certain demeanour that refuses to be brow beaten. She simply has spark and I really enjoyed that about her. Livingston also has a way with words when it comes to the fight scenes. They’re easy to imagine and frankly exciting to read. She knows when to draw a line and not labour the point and I just really enjoyed that she sometimes had to make Fallon rely on her wits as well as her fighting prowess.
I really enjoy reading novels set in this period and on top of that the idea of female gladiators just really appealed to me. I confess that I went into this story expecting to a certain degree to love it – but – I wasn’t expecting it to take me by storm and give me a protagonist, a bunch of surrounding characters, a setting and a plot that surpassed my expectations and that I fell easily in love with.
Perfect pace, unpredictable plot, polished writing and plenty of action. I loved it – can you tell?? Sign me up for No.2!
In terms of criticisms. None. Okay, this is not a fantasy book. Dragons do not sweep across the horizon and there is no magic. I guess the only fantastical element could be the inclusion of female gladiators – although there does appear to be some evidence that they did in fact exist! But mythical creatures and the lack thereof aside I have no hesitation in recommending this. It was absolutely compelling.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Edelweiss for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.