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Review: The Valiant - Lesley Livingston

The Valiant The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Series: The Valiant #1
My rating: {★★★☆☆}

YA Fantasy
Published February 14th 2017 by Razorbill

Source: Borrowed
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 know that there's only three stars in this review, but they are three very good stars. I really enjoyed this book a lot.

Ancient Rome - the history, the culture - it's something that has always interested me. And here we have a book that's managed to combine this and actual historical events with an added fantasy flair, and the thing is, as Lesley Livingston explained in her 'Note from the Author', it may not even be that far of a stretch
“You think I should fight for Caesar?”
“I think you should fight for yourself,” he said. “But those things needn’t be exclusive. Temper passion with control, conviction with cunning. Win, Fallon..."

I didn't love the beginning of this book. From the synopsis it's already clear that Fallon is going to develop feelings for Cai, a young decurion close to Ceaser, but the book opens up with Fallon living her life as the daughter of a king and just discovering her feelings for Mael, youngest son of another Celtic King who has been fostering with her tribe since they were children. This initial romance was obviously difficult to connect with and when things didn't go as planned I found it difficult to feel for Fallon. This romance of hers was built on the basis that she had known Mael for so long, but I just couldn't buy into it - whether it was from the fact that it was built in the first few pages or whether it was the synopsis I'm not sure - but I did struggle here. It was just cheesy for me.

Even though there were a few hiccups in the beginning and it took me a few chapters to really feel invested in the story I found myself captivated by Fallon's spirit and her determination - she is resolved to not only to survive, but to live boldly. Watching the plot play out and Fallon's character development was just so entertaining that I found it difficult to put this one down.
“Weapon or target . . . Choose, Fallon!”

Another thing to love about this story was the fierce female gladiatrices paired with the formidable bonds of female friendships. I was especially delighted when Lesley Livingston managed to use of my favourite romance tropes, hate-to-love AND include a hate-to-love story of a firm and lasting female friendship. Elka was my favourite secondary character!

Fallon's opinions and point of view is challenged continually throughout this book which I loved and it shows how one's perceptions can change so much with experience. It was also great to see both sides of a story showing that in a war, the people on both sides are just that - people. People who have mothers and fathers and children and brothers and sisters just like the opposition do. It's not all cut and dried.

There was a sadly predictable twist (or two) in the plot which left me wanting but overall it didn't detract too much from the book. It was fun and full of action with plenty of arena battle scenes and some great showcasing of females in the best of ways. There is soooo much potential for an amazing sequel so I cannot wait for The Defiant.
Today, I am Victory...
Today, we are Valiant.
The Defiant (The Valiant #2)→