Book Review: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Hey Ya’ll!

So I’m going to do something a bit different in this review. I will be fully spoiler-free reviewing this book in this post, but I’m also going to have a section (which will be clearly marked) where I gush, filled with spoilers, about this book. This book was fantastic, if you need proof:

I continued to highlight past this point, so I’m pretty upset I couldn’t share them, but if you want to check out my notes and highlights on this book, which might contain spoilers, click here.

I want to thank Jamie @ The Kansan Reader, for suggesting that we buddy read this together (you can check out her review HERE).

We will also be buddy reading the next book in the series, The Defiant, when it comes out on February 13th, 2018.

The Synopsis

Our main character is Fallon, youngest daughter of Virico the king, chief of the Cantii tribe of Prydain. Her greatest dream throughout her life was to follow in her warrior sister’s footsteps, and become a member of her father’s war band. She has never wanted anything else. So on the night she’s to join, she is shocked when her father decides that he would rather marry her off than allow her to risk her life and die like her sister did.

“Are you trying to fulfill Olun’s prophecy?” he asked. “Is that what you’re trying to do?” I rolled my eyes. It was true my father’s chief druid, Olun, had divined that I would one day follow in my sister Sorcha’s footsteps. But she had been killed on the field of battle.

Furious, Fallon rips off all her fancy jewelry, the Torc that marks her as a princess, and her prize dagger, and throws them into a fire and takes off. Not realizing this is the worst thing she could have done. She is quickly captured by slave traders working for Caesar, her greatest enemy, and sold to be a gladiatrix in the arena.

Even though the last thing she wants to do is fight for the man who took her sister from her, Fallon doesn’t have a choice. She is a slave. This is the story of how Fallon becomes one of the greatest Gladiatrix to ever enter the arena.

My Thoughts (Spoiler-Free)  I want to say that the synopsis couldn’t have been any longer without completely spoiling the whole story.

The first thing I want to talk about is Fallon, as well as the other really strong female characters in this book. When one thinks about the time of Julius Caesar, they think of the iconic super-male gladiators roaring their victory in the ring. The women tend to take a backseat to their glory. Livingston instead goes against the grain, and writes about the female gladiators of that time, inspired by history. I really loved this.

As I lit the last of the lamps, I thought about the day they’d told me my sister was dead, killed by the Romans. The women of the tribes of Prydain—Cantii and Catuvellauni, Trinovantes and Iceni—could choose to fight alongside the men or not. Many did and with such skill that they were feared as much as the men—more so, even.

Fallon was a really great lead, and I loved reading from her mindset. Despite the fact that she is for all intents and purposes a slave, she does everything she can to still stick to her own personal definition of honor. I also like that until the very end, despite the fact that she is working for Caesar, she still considers killing him if she gets the chance.

I think of any character, hers is the one with the greatest growth. She really finds out what it is like to be a slave, at least on the way to Ludus Achillea, foremost training academy for female gladiators in all of the Republic.

I also really LOVED Elka. Can we just stop for a moment and appreciate this character? She is a nordic looking warrior-woman who was also captured by slavers. When we first meet her she is trying to beat the crap out of Fallon. But she ends up being one of Fallon’s greatest friends and she is a total freaking badass.

Another thing I wanted to talk about is the feminism and sense of sisterhood in this book. If ya’ll read my post on what can make or break a book for me, you know that this is something that can make me instantly love a book if it’s done right.

I would be the master of my own fate. Me and the goddess Morrigan. No one else—and certainly no man.

When she arrives at the Ludus, part of her oath is that she will treat every girl there like a sister, and despite herself that actually happens.

I loved how close a lot of the characters became and I loved that even the side female characters were very distinct.  The entire cast of characters from MC’s to minor side characters are SO incredibly well-developed and you would never confuse one for the other.

Another thing I wanted to talk about was the love interests in this book. Due to certain plot points, her love interest changes from one person to another in the book. To be honest, the fact that there was romance within the first two pages or so of the book really threw me off, and I was about to be so mad if the MC ended up not being a warrior after all, just another girl willing to give up her dreams for a guy. HOWEVER, THIS DID NOT HAPPEN. No matter who the love interest is at every point in the book, Fallon tells them that she will not give up her dreams and the person she’s always wanted to be for a man. That if they love her they will be willing to wait. I ended up loving this part of the book, especially with the whole underlying message that this part conveys.

The main part of this book that really added so much to the story was the incredibly in-depth descriptions of the world and scenery throughout the entire novel. It was so amazing. There was this scene where the author is describing what Elka and Fallon are wearing when they’re being sold and I could imagine it down to the sandals on their feet. The description of Rome itself and the entire world was just so LUSH I don’t even know how to explain it. When she’s in the arena you feel like you are there with her facing down the Fury (which you will read about later ;D).

I don’t think there was anything that I ended up disliking, besides that the one “big reveal” was pretty much predicted by me when she first arrives at the Ludus. But to be honest, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this book at all.


In case you didn’t see it, DO NOT keep reading if you haven’t read this book. This whole section will contain spoilers for this book. 

This will be in no particular order, just in the order it all comes out when I fangirl:

Okay so can we talk about the fact that the big reveal that Sorscha is alive wasn’t really that surprising? I mean I noticed the MINUTE she gets to the Ludus and that lamp was put in the funeral pyre, and that every girl gets a lamp. This didn’t really piss me off or anything, but damn she probably could have done a bit better trying to hide it.

ELKA. Elka, Elka, Elka my sweet cinnamon roll. I loved her giant Nordic self so much she was such a badass, I would totally wife up if Elka was a real person. Just being honest, I was hoping that Elka would be the new love interest when Mael died and I was pretty disappointed it ended up being the Decurion instead. Not that I didn’t like him, but like, female warriors in love? That would have been a beautiful addition ♥

Erm…to be honest I was hoping she would just spear Caesar’s ass at some point but it never happened so that made me sad. But can we just talk about how accurately he was depicted? I mean wow, his scheming mind was definitely shown.

AND HOLY CRAP THAT ENDING. I could literally swear I felt the rumble of the arena as she’s holding up her hands in victory. I could hear the screams of people screaming “VICTRIX!” and celebrating her victory. And when the Decurion jumped over the arena wall after her victory and kissed her I got literal chills.

I want to say that scene where they’re eating that Gladiator was legit disgusting but like, I hope there’s more elaboration on it? Obviously Pontius Aquilla is a disgusting human but I want to know HOW much of a bad person he is. We really only touched on like the whole death-worshipping-cannibals thing and I want to see more of it.

I ended up pre-ordering the next book, and I cannot wait to read it! I’m going to call this a successful first ever buddy read, and I’m so glad I got the chance to read this book. I’m looking forward to seeing if this series can make it onto my favorites-of-all-time shelf. I really hope this next book can hold a flame to this first one because I’m really not trying to be disappointed by another second-book-syndrome.

There is a Goodreads giveaway from this book, you can enter here. You can also request The Defiant on Edelweiss (I am waiting to get approved I will legit scream if I can have it!).

I will see you guys next time!