Review of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

thevaliantcoverThe Valiant
By: Lesley Livingston
Release Date: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

Summary:

Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. 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, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

My Thoughts:

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston is a fiercely addictive tale pulling from the vastly untold history of female gladiators in Ancient Rome. The pacing is fast and I was immediately drawn into the writing, story and characters. There’s no time wasted before we have action and even some kissing.

We, as the reader, follow Fallon as she falls from Celtic princess to slave to a gladiatorial- fighting for her life in the colosseum. Livingston makes tangible the horror of losing the right to guide your own future by detailing what it might have been like to have been taken from your home and sold to the highest bidder. I feel that following Fallon on this journey enabled me to really feel a connection to her.

The historical details and vividly described world made it is easy to visualize what it might have been like in the time period and to feel the grit, sweat and blood of the coliseum. I loved how well the fighting was depicted and honestly I was able to play it all out like a movie while I read.

The secondary cast was well developed and I loved that historical figures such as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra were included in the story line. I loved the portrayal of Cleopatra especially. As Fallon drew closer to her sister gladiators so did I. I became entrenched in the drama between the girls. There were so many different types of characters in this story- from the powerful to the weak I loved seeing how Livingston gave them all a backstory and motivations. One of my favorites was Caius Varro. He was such a great character and I loved seeing Fallon’s feelings for him change.

Final Thoughts:
With themes of family, loyalty and betrayal interwoven with a whirl wind of intense battle scenes and a touch of romance you will be clamoring for more.

Blog Tour- Guest Post -The Valiant by Lesley Livingston + Giveaway

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I am so excited to be on The Valiant Blog Tour. Last year one of my bloggy dreams came true and I was asked to read the manuscript for this novel and provide a blurb. I still can’t believe my words made it on the advanced reading copies of this book. Since I read it so long ago I recently reread this book and loved it even more the second time around. I am honored to have the author, Lesley Livingston, here to talk about gladiatrix.

About the Book

thevaliantcoverThe Valiant
By: Lesley Livingston
Release Date: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

Summary:

Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. 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, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

 Guest Post

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient history and it’s been in my mind to write a female gladiator story for quite awhile. Over the past few decades, the existence of gladiatrices in ancient Rome has been the subject of much debate among historians. While there is, of course, ample evidence of male gladiators, ancient texts and artifacts portraying female fighters in the arenas were sparse. Lost to history, the lives of these exceptional girls and women were shrouded in mystery. Were female gladiators a gimmick? A fad? Had they really even existed at all?

And then, in 2001, archaeologists unearthed an ancient Roman-era gravesite in Britain of a 1,900-year-old woman that proved, virtually beyond a doubt in the minds of many (myself included), that female gladiators were real. And they’d most likely led lives just as dangerous and dynamic as their male counterparts—and perhaps even more controversial.

The lavish contents of the burial hinted at the wealth of the occupant, but the grave itself was placed beyond the boundaries of the main cemetery, marking the woman as a likely outcast from society. Individual items left tantalizing clues: a lamp with a design depicting a fallen gladiator, and another depicting Anubis, the god of the dead traditionally associated with the profession. While it’s entirely plausible that the young woman in the grave was the wife or lover of a gladiator (a counter-theory which has been upheld by some scholars), why then the peculiar grave placement? The grave goods include stone pine incense—a fragrant offering long thought to be specifically associated with gladiators. Why would a gladiator’s paramour need incense used specifically to mask the stench of blood in the arenas?

There are other archaeological discoveries that point to the occurrence of female gladiators as more than just a rare novelty or gimmick as well. Like the relief sculpture found at Halicarnassus depicting two female fighters named “Achillea” and “Amazona” (a detail which I was delighted to spin to good use in The Valiant when it came to naming the academies where the girls train for the arena). But some of those artifacts, for the longest time, may have been misinterpreted.

I remember when I was much younger seeing a picture of a small bronze statue of a female clothed only in what looked like a breechclout, holding a curved blade high above her head. She was referred to for years as “the bather”. But even back when I first saw her, such an interpretation struck me (like the gladiator-lover grave theory) as rather sexist. I always wondered why a woman who was simply taking a bath would gesture triumphantly with a toiletry implement! To me, she looked like a warrior—and recent scholarly re-examination of the artifact all but confirms (again) that she was, in all likelihood, a gladiatrix.

Of course, once I started to write about what the lives of these girls and women might have been like, I had to do a lot of research into the lives of their male counterparts—weapons, daily routines, the environments in which they lived and trained—and adapt it for what might have been a Ludus for female fighters. Fortunately, there is an abundance of knowledge in that realm which can be adapted. I also delved into the lives of other female warrior societies, like the Celts and the Amazons, and extrapolated from there. Rituals, relationships, how society would have viewed such a person—for good or ill—and what she might have done had she ever actually won her freedom to reenter society, these were all questions I had to imagine the answers to. Tangible facts are thin on the ground where the gladiatrix is concerned, but there are enough tantalizing clues to weave a compelling tale of what might have been.

 

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Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on February 13, 2017 and 12:00 AM on March 13, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about March 15, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Week One
2/13 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Gladiator Makeup
2/14 – Two Chicks on Books – Author Interview
2/15 – Alexa Loves Books – Weapon Spotlight: Bow & Arrow
2/16 – Novel Novice – Review
2/17 – Arctic Books – Review + Book Look
Week Two
2/20 – Brittany’s Book Rambles – Author Guest Post
2/21 – What Sarah Read – Review + Mood Board
2/22 – Mundie Moms – Weapon Spotlight: Shield
2/23 – ButterMyBooks – Author Interview
2/24 – Fiction Fare – Weapon Spotlight: Dimachaerus
Week Three
2/27 – Oh the Book Feels – Author Interview
2/28 – Seeing Double in Neverland – Weapon Spotlight: Gladius
3/1 – No More Grumpy Bookseller – Review
3/2 – The YA Book Traveler – Weapon Spotlight: Trident & Net
3/3 – My Friends Are Fiction – Author Guest Post
Week Four
3/6 – The Reading Nook Reviews – Weapon Spotlight: Spear
3/7 – A Page with a View – Like/Try/Why
3/8 – The Young Folks – Author Guest Post
3/9 – Icey Books – Quote Candy + Review
3/10 – Book Addict’s Guide – Bookish Scents

Review of Crystal Storm by Morgan Rhodes

crystalstormCrystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5)
By: Morgan Rhodes
Release Date: December 13th 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
The ruthless Empress Amara of Kraeshia has taken the Mytican throne, and now uncertainty looms over the three kingdoms. Since Lucia unleashed the fire Kindred, wreaking havoc throughout the land, Myticans have been looking for someone—anyone—they can trust. They believe in Amara, not knowing her grand promises are built on lies.

In Paelsia, Magnus and Cleo reluctantly follow King Gaius to the home of his exiled mother, Selia. Selia is a powerful witch and claims she can help unlock the magic of the Kindred—if the visitors agree to her terms. When Jonas arrives from Kraeshia, he is shocked to find that his rebel army now includes his sworn enemies. Along with Nic, Felix, and the mysteriously resurrected Ashur, the contentious group agrees to cast aside old grudges—for now—and united against their common enemy: Amara.

Meanwhile, bearing the child of a Watcher and feared by all, Princess Lucia travels across Mytica to find her family. But time is running out. The impending storm signals the dark prophecy Timotheus warned her about. Her fate is written, and it includes none other than the rebel Jonas. When their paths collied, Jonas and Lucia must decide between blindly following their destiny or fighting for their own free will.

The battle for power culminates at the Paelsian palace, where Amara resides. Rain pours. Blood spills. And soon all will discover that the darkest magic comes at an even darker price.

My Thoughts:
GASP. The ending of this one- cruel Rhodes, cruel. For some reason I was under the impression this was the last book of the series as I read this. Why? I HAVE NO IDEA. But I’ll just say that thinking that and watching how things at the end of this were going down I was nearly hyperventilating.

I didn’t reread before diving into this and that worked just fine for me. Rhodes did a great job of bringing me back into the story and characters. Things from the prior books easily came back to me and I was easily immersed in the story. The writing was fast paced even in slower parts. A good amount of this book centered on slower elements like characters aligning and conversing. things do progress and I was never bored.

We get to follow multiple point of views again from many characters (as always). I’m partial to Magnus (who isn’t) and I wasn’t disappointed by his story line though I could always use more pages about him. I love how his character has changed and grown over the course of the series. His interactions and relationships are so interesting and I love that we always find out tiny bits about him and his past. I love how all these enemies had to band together for a common cause. You can sense the tension between them in their uneasy alliance.

Cleo and Magnus. *sigh* gah, they kill me but I love every minute of it. I admit these two are my favorites and I look forward to their chapters.

Lucia has grated on me in the past but I actually started liking her in this book (!!) I hope that this continues in the next book. Her path started to head in a direction I didn’t predict so that excites me. I’ll admit I have absolutely no clue where any of the character’s stories will end up.

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Final Thoughts:
Of course if you are reading this series you must read this one too. Each of these books get better as they go…I might have preferred Frozen Tides a smidgen but I just love where the characters are going. I need the next book asap.

Blog Tour-Review of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir + Giveaway

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I am so excited to be involved with the blog tour for A Torch Against the Night. Early on I fell in love with An Ember in the Ashes and Tahir’s writing. I had high expectations for this follow-up and wow…it was beyond even what I imagined.

My Review

ATATNA Torch Against the Night
By: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: August 30th 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy 0f this book was provided by the publisher in consideration for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf – the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison – to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene – Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own – one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape… and kill them both.

My Thoughts:
It is rare indeed when a sequel is capable of being even better than the first book- and A Torch Against the Night actually succeeded in this.

This time we join Laia and Elias as they run to escape the fall-out from the last book. We get a much broader look at the world, the Empire, and how things are for people living in this land. Laia was determined as ever to do whatever it took to save her brother from his fate in Kauf Prison. This book had a lot of traveling (which if done poorly can be dreadfully dull) but it was done so beautifully with a very even pacing and just the right amount of description to give the reader a vivid vision but never veering on too much.

One of my favorite aspects of Torch was that we got a point of view from Helene- I think we all grew to love her in the first book and I loved being able to see from her view point as well as learn more of her inner thoughts and motives. She was such a complex character, pulled in so many directions I couldn’t help but have my heart break for her. To have her tasked to find the now traitor Elias and be responsible for his demise- just AHHH. What a cruel twist.

Elias was by far, once again, my favorite character. I am so intrigued with his backstory and really everything about him. His chemistry with Laia was perfect though I could always use more scenes with the two of them together (I’m a greedy reader).

All of these characters are so well developed, and all straddle what’s good and what’s not. I love that I never exactly know who to trust-this adds a level of connection to Laia since I am learning as she does. I’m as unsure as she was about who to trust, what other’s motivations are and this adds so much to the tension. Even slower paced scenes were enveloped in tension which to me, made the entire book an incredibly fast read since I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.

I was so happy also that we get to learn more about the fate of Laia’s brother. He was such a pivotal character for her story arc it was wonderful to learn a bit more about who he was as well as what happened to him after he was taken. And, I’ve not even mentioned yet how unpredictable the story-line was for me and how there were twists, turns and reveals that sort of blew my mind.

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Final Thoughts:
I felt that A Torch Against the Night was an even stronger than the first book. Tahir dove into her characters giving them further depth as well as incorporating some incredible twists and turns in the story. This was the type of sequel that totally exceeded my expectations and took the story somewhere I’d not expected. I highly recommend this series.

Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win a finished copy of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir and an An Ember in the Ashes quote tote bag (ARV: $30.00).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:01 AM Eastern Time on August 29, 2016 and 11:59 PM Eastern Time on September 16, 2016.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about September 23, 2016. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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A Torch Against the Night Excerpts and Giveaway

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Last year I was swept away by An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I found it to be such a strong, vivid and often disturbing fantasy tale that was dark yet had that glimmer of hope that kept me reading. I can’t wait to dive into the follow-up A Torch Against the Night. I do think I’ll do a bit of a reread of the first book since there was so many details and I don’t’ want to miss anything in this sequel.

If you’re a fan like me then I have a treat for you- two excerpts from A Torch Against the Night and a giveaway hosted by the lovely people at Penguin.

Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? If so I want you to leave me your review link or let me know what you thought in the comments. If not, I highly recommend it! You can check out my review here and look for me to give you my updated thoughts after I do a reread.

About A Torch Against the Night

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A Torch Against the Night takes readers into the heart of the Empire as Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison. Hunted by Empire soldiers, manipulated by the Commandant, and haunted by their pasts, Laia and Elias must outfox their enemies and confront the treacherousness of their own hearts.

In the city of Serra, Helene Aquilla finds herself bound to the will of the Empire’s twisted new leader, Marcus. When her loyalty is questioned, Helene finds herself taking on a mission to prove herself—a mission that might destroy her, instead.

Pre-order here

Excerpts

Chapter 1 reveal
Chapter 2 reveal

Giveaway

This is an US only giveaway of 10 ARCs of A Torch Against the Night

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