by Lesley Livingston
Ancient Rome has always attracted a lot of interest from historians and nonfiction writers, because it holds a lot of fame for its government and, most importantly, its Games. Chariot races, gladiator fights, animal fights, animal hunts, and even water games and fights were all stages in arenas like the colosseum for the Roman people to enjoy. Nowadays, people look back on this and can't even think what it would be like- to see people fighting to the death right in front of you. But in The Valiant, a novel by Lesley Livingston, you get not a view of what the games might have been like to witness, but what it might have been like to have fought in them- with a twist. Even though this book, unlike the majority of its predecessors, is fictional, it still contains the context and detail of Ancient Rome,although from the point of not a male gladiator (as it was historically), but a female one. In this novel, Fallon, the daughter of a Celtic king, is part of a society that resists Roman rule- at great personal costs. This means that people in their kingdom learn to be fighters- and Fallon is one of those fighters. On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, she hopes to gain status as a warrior in her father's royal war band. On this same eve, a chain of surprising, and somewhat unfortunate, events ensue that carries her all the way to Rome- but not in the stands, where the Roman people all get to enjoy the games. Instead, she is introduced to the life of a gladiator- in which you kill, or die.
A thrilling adventure that enamors the audience with its fantastical plot, while including a fair number of historical details such as Caesar and Cleopatra, the types of gladiator, the tribune of the plebs, and the grammatical structure of diminutives in latin, this novel is completely enjoyable as well as one that completely absorbs the reader.
If this book was a meal, I think that it would be lentils with coriander. This dish is an enjoyable, consciously healthy dish- and the book is fiction, yet with some historical facts- it contains enough fantasy to spark your imagination while still giving you some historical background (just like healthy food tasting good). A classic Roman dish, lentils with coriander uses lentils (one of the foods commonly used in Ancient Rome) as well as many spices acquired in that region of the world at the time. Lentils represent the book because lentils were one of the Roman staples of food. They were used commonly in many recipes, and hold a fair amount of nutritional value that helped a lot of people to stay healthy. This book captures the essence of the gladiator games, which was another essence of the Roman times- they used the games for happiness. The spices used in this dish are representative of all of the historical tidbits thrown into this novel- the latin grammar of the diminutives, latin vocabulary for gladiator kinds, etc. These facts added a little spice to the gladiator games and the book, just like these spices add to the taste of lentils, which-like the gladiator games-are a Roman staple.
This is a really good book, but I still would have enjoyed a little more Ancient Roman and Latin input. I give it 4 stars out of 5.
If you are interested in this book or want to see more by Lesley Livingston, you can check out her website at http://www.lesleylivingston.com/.