Review: The Valiant

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Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

I was not into this book. To me it read like a debut, there could have been some tightening up, especially with the dialogue.

We just jump right into things with this book. In the first chapter you get first kiss, love you, marry me, wait I love you but need to achieve my goals first. Second chapter: Sorry daddy betrothed you to someone else and you can’t fight in his army. Third Chapter: betrothed kills the boy you love. And I’m, not reveling any major spoilers here so don’t worry.  Honestly I didn’t think any of that drama was really needed or helpful for the rest of the story.

A major issue for me was that I didn’t connect with any of the characters, and I didn’t think any of them had much depth. I liked that Fallon admitted to talking herself up, but that was about all the nuance she reveled about her inner workings, and arguably was one of the only ways she showed any growth. And for being such an amazing warrior, I was not impressed. She seemed to win most of her fights through luck, and when there was a fight scene (not as often as you would imagine) it didn’t feel very fresh. Honestly, a lot of images from the fights reminded me of events in a certain movie about gladiators. . .

A lot of this was very obvious, as it follows a lot of standard YA tropes. Sometimes it’s ok because of the individual characters and the hidden depths revealed about their actions, but not in this. Again, the lack of depth for any of the characters has all of these stereotypical roles being unoriginal and obvious. We’ve got the initial enemy becoming the best friend, the forbidden love (I have no idea why they love each other by the way), the mean girl, the arrogant and selfish bad guy.

I had high hopes for this book as well, a very interesting time period – one I have not seen much in YA – providing a chance to investigate Roman slavery and how it differs from the chattel slavery most of us are familiar with, the empire of Rome with its multiculturalism, the vying of such an advanced yet barbaric society, and the most obvious – the role of female gladiators. Well, unfortunately, none of that is touched beyond the general and obvious observations. So if you were hoping for some actual social history (as I always am), be prepared for disappointment. Another disappointment was the fact that some potential plot points were introduced that were very interesting, but they were never talked about again after their introduction. Honestly, I have no idea why it was almost 400 pages long, because not that much happened. I will not be continuing this series.

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