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The romanticism of Rome. The ferociousness of the gladiator pits and the ancient Celtic warriors. A tale of old loves lost and new ones found. This is the story Lesley Livingston tells in the first of The Valiant trilogy.
Young Fallon is a Celtic princess living in Roman conquered Britannia. She is about to reach the age where she can join her father's war band and take her place not only as a princess but as a warrior of her people. She is fierce, strong-willed, brave, and ready to prove herself. And yet she is young and in love. A love she didn't know existed until it was too late.
Instead of being a part of her people as a leader and a fighter, she is captured by the very people she hopes to destroy. The Romans. On her journey to Rome, she must first survive her fellow slaves, the men who hope to rape her or destroy her spirit, and vile ghosts of the past in both Gual and her own heart. She must find a new meaning to life, an inner strength, and a way to outlast her servitude.
But these are things Fallon knows little of for she is stubborn and holds herself to a higher standard, like a true royal. Upon reaching Rome and being sold to the Lady Achillea's ludus for training as a gladiatrix, Fallon has only one person she can truly trust, her fellow slave and gladiatrix Elka. And yet her slaver and a decurion legionnaire continue to make their presence known throughout Fallon's journey to become the greatest fighter in her ludus. Elka, Caius, and Charon all see Fallon for more than what she is. They see she is a contender and not one to be trifled with. Elka sees the sly cunning that Fallon can possess as she often refers to her as "little fox". Charon knows more than he lets on about who Fallon is and her value. And Caius sees her for more than just a warrior or a princess, he sees her as a woman.
These are all parts of Fallon that she must learn for herself or discover as she continues her journey through the circuit fighting one gladiatrix after another. She must navigate the Ancient Roman society, learn the hidden secrets that only a slave may know, and come to terms with her own fate. Will she end up like her sister? What of her life back with her father and her people? How does her time in Rome change her and will she find acceptance for the woman and person she is?
Livingston brings the ideals of Roman society and the great victories of the legendary Julius Caesar to life in ways I never imagined. She taught me more about the ways of the Celtic tribes and how those on The Isle of the Mighty found ways of accepting their invaders without losing their true selves. I learned more about how Caesar defeated Gaul and how the after-effects of one of the greatest uncharted lands of the ancient world came to be a part of the Roman Empire. What I loved the most though, was learning about the female gladiators. I never knew such a thing existed and to learn so much with such an amazing tale of war, alliances, betrayals, romance, rebukes, and mystery, was incredible as it is inspiring. Knowing that women of the ancient world could also fight and be just as strong as a man made this book one I could not put down and will enjoy reading again and again.