Title: The Valiant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Narrator: Fiona Hardigham
Publisher: Listening Library
Running Time: 10 hours, 21 minutes
Goodreads Summary: 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.
Ya know that giddy feeling you feel when you step off a rollercoaster and you’re like “Let’s do it again! Let’s do it again! Let’s do it again!”? That’s pretty darn close to how I felt after finishing Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant. The Valiant is one heck of a non-stop, whirlwind, action-packed thrill ride that’ll leave you begging for more! If you’re looking for action, adventure, romance, and friendship all tied up in a light historical fiction novel (that honestly reads more like fantasy), then this is the book for you! Here are five reasons why you (yes, you!) might love The Valiant…
1. Female Gladiators For The Win!!!
So it was discovered fairly recently that there’s a decent chance there may have actually been female Roman gladiators. It was from this discovery that Livingston says she drew most of her inspiration, noting that she wanted to imagine what that life could’ve been like. And, in Livingston’s capable hands, th idea totally works! I loved how Livingston chose to make being a female gladiator not only about strength and capability, but also about sisterhood and solidarity (which I’ll get to in a bit). Through the lens of Fallon’s journey, Livingston vividly imagines not only what life as a female gladiator may have been like, but also how a woman might end up living that life and why she may have chosen to continue to live that life. This blends together to form a tale that is full of action, adventure, and fun, while still being compelling.
2. Strength In Sisterhood
One of my favorite aspects of The Valiant was the strong female friendships in the book. We have Elka and Fallon, who have a hate to best friends relationship that was both lovely and hilarious to watch unfold. We have the bonds of friendship and sisterhood that are forged between the girls at the academy and which the academy really is built on. And we have one last example of strong female relationships that I won’t divulge because I don’t want to spoil you, but it’s really touching. It would’ve been easy for Livingston to turn Fallon’s situation into a catty competition full of girl hate, and for a moment there at the beginning, you think she might, but then she totally subverts that expectation! Throughout the novel, most of the girls cheer each other on and build each other up. It was such a nice change from the norm in YA and such a lovely aspect of the book.
3. Falling For Fallible Fallon
I think the thing that really sold me on The Valiant was the characters. I loved all of them so much! I especially loved the main character, Fallon! The thing about Fallon is that she’s a strong heroine, but she’s DEFINITELY NOT an example of the Strong Female Protagonist™ who we see so often. Fallon is…fallible. We see her grow and train and learn new things, we see her make mistakes–sometimes whoppers! Livingston gives Fallon time to realize her own mistakes and to consider them and learn and grow from them. But no matter what, the thing that remains consistent is Fallon’s fierce heart. It is Fallon’s heart that allows her to be both strong and compassionate. Livingston recognized that those qualities aren’t mutually exclusive, rather that they in fact feed off of each other and build each other up. And Fallon recognizes that too and it keeps her from becoming bitter and jaded. I found as I was reading that there was no other companion I’d want on the journey through the story other than Fallon.
4. Perilous Politics
Ancient Rome in the time of Julius Caesar was full of intrigue, mind games, and literal backstabbing. So, ya know, the norm for an ancient (or modern) empire. Anyhow, Livingston doesn’t shy away from playing around with the materials provided by her chosen historical setting. Fallon is taken from her fairly free minded Celtic society and forcefully brought into a new society which is centered on the principle that not everything is as it seems on the surface. How well Fallon navigates these treacherously tricky and deceptive new waters will determine whether or not she’ll be able to get out with her honor, her freedom, and her life! Livingston wonderfully explored Ancient Roman culture through the eyes of Fallon, who was experiencing Ancient Rome for the first time along with us readers! Livingston not only took every historical and cultural detail in stride, she made learning the facts fun–and she never once info-dumped!
5. Is This The Real World? Is This Just Fantasy?
I don’t know about y’all, but I love YA fantasy. It’s the bread and butter of my reading life. Historical fiction?…Not so much…And yet, I fell in love with The Valiant! Why? Because it felt like a fantasy! There’s no magic, but there’s a world vastly different from our own, whispers of gods and goddesses, mystery and court intrigue, action, and adventure–all classic elements of fantasy. Everything about the way that the world of The Valiant was written felt like magic and mystery were in the air and just a snap away. In a way, it makes you think about how magical real life can be. So, fantasy fans, put this on your TBR!
Juuuust In Case, Some Things That Might Make You Say “No Way!”…
- Seeing as this is a story about female gladiators, there is a fair amount of gore, which might make you a bit squeamish…
Other than that, though, this book was golden!
Thoughts In A Gif: