Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???). Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically. They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree. RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance. And maybe both.
In , Andrea and Pam both read The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Princess. Captive. Gladiator.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.
When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.
Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. 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 and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.
The Quick Reactions:
|Pam: I liked it. It was silly in some parts and the romance was improbable, but I thought it was fluffy (or as fluffy as people killing each other for the sport of the Romans can be) and a quick read. i would totally read the next one in the series.
I also really liked the emphasis on female friendships and sisterhood over all else.
Andrea:I’m a thumbs up as well. While there were parts, especially at the beginning where I doubted, I was totally pulled into the world and loved the general story. I was so happy to see this one was a series!
Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):
Pam: Yay! I thought it was really pro-girl and I loved that Livingston emphasized the diversity in the Roman Empire and had Fallon realize that although people looked different and she hadn’t seen anyone like them before, that’s how the world was. And I’m REALLY glad she didn’t leave Mael alive at home to create a love triangle.
Andrea: Yes! When I first started it, I was like what did Pam pick?! This is not a Pam story, lol I also was really, really glad that she didn’t drag out the Sorcha idenity. I had figured it out and was scared we’d spend the whole book “wondering”. I also agree that I love how pro-female, especially friendship it is
Pam: I really enjoyed it. It was fun and it had the character work through her feelings for her sister and her need for vengeance and her friendships … I think i would have liked to know more about the creepy Collector but maybe that will come up in the second book?
Andrea: I have a feeling that may come up in book two. It seems like there’s a lot surrounding what she saw at the party that hasn’t truly been uncovered yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not what book two focused on. What else did you like about the book? Favorite char? Dislikes? Etc?
Like I really liked Elka (is that the correct spelling/name?) I would have loved to seen even more of her. I loved how they went from enemies, to necessary survivors to friends.
Pam: Elka was great. You see the prejudice that different tribes had against one another, but she and Fallon got over it. The only thing I really disliked was how open Cai was about his feelings for Fallon, and his willingness to buy her contract after really not knowing her for that long. I’m not sure if I could believe a Roman soldier doing that for a slave from Britannia.
Even though it was a relatively brief scene, Fallon and Elka’s makeover in the baths was really good because we met other slaves who had power because of the secrets they possessed and the talents they had. Sort of like the girl who works at the brothel–she had power because of all the nefarious things she witnessed and kept quiet that were potential blackmail
There was just the right amount of intrigue and backstabbing. I know Rome was super into that whole scene, but some books get really, really in depth and that can be a little off putting sometimes when I just want to read a fun story
Andrea: I think in the book the time that Cai knew her seems short, but I feel like they were on the boat/travelling much longer than we think. And I love how she should that being a slave to some wasn’t a bad thing. And how much power, even a prostitute, could have.
Pam: Mmm, that’s true. I guess I’m stuck in modern travel time! Also the pirate attack set them back. Bloody pirates.
The discussion of slavery in the Roman Empire was really interesting, because Fallon acknowleges that it was a super common practice at home, too. So it’s not like her people were any “better” than the Romans, morally.
Andrea: Yes! But I did like how it opened her eyes about how she had kind of treated them like nothing. Although, it seemed like the Roman slaves held a bit more bother than their house slaves.
I will say I wish there had been more actual fighting? Also, everything kind of felt….easy for Fallon.
Pam: Yeah it was kinda light on the fighting. She’s really lucky, but I guess I was willing to forgive that because sometimes I need a book where it’s not a constant struggle. If i recall correctly wasn’t the author’s last series a paranormal romance? So I don’t think i was really expecting a high level of blood and guts
Andrea: I think so? But this book was about gladiator fighting! I so wanted more. It was liked she glossed over it completely almost. And I don’t know that I needed her to struggle all the time, but just a little? Did she ever lose a match? The things she did struggle w/just made her seem like a brat at times.
Pam: Hmmm, good point. I think I’d rather have it be less detailed in the fighting than have it be weirdly inaccurate or so totally detailed that all you do is read page long descriptions of fighting. My bar is really low rn, idk. She only lost her sparring matches, I think.
Andrea: Sparring is all that is mentioned, but she totally doesn’t talk about ANY match except her first one. After that, it was “I became a favorite and was in the running with Nyx.” Don’t get me wrong, I still really like the book, but I wanted more. You’ve got the picture of a girl in the arena and she looks kick ass—but that’s hardly in the book at all. It’s more of her dealing with her sister and gaining honor (even though that’s really glossed over as well, IMO)
And honestly, that first match was about “luck” and that last battle was about her “being smarter than everyone else”. It really was she was super arrogant or just super lucky.
Pam: I read it as super lucky.
Andrea: Most of the time it was super lucky, but there were definitely times where she was just super arrogant. I even kind of think the final battle/how she handled it was kind of arrogant.
Pam: I wonder if this is a case of slightly misleading cover/blurb/promo. It’s a solid book but not a solid fighting gladiator book.
Andrea: Yes! I do think that’s it completely. But I still loved and and can’t wait to read the next installment.