(I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book's blog tour.)
It must be a difficult thing to write historical fiction set in certain periods of time, like the age of the Roman Empire. It was a brutal age, and no one was immune to that. Yet as an author, you’re writing for a modern audience with modern sensibilities who will only forgive so much in the characters they are reading about and supposed to care for. It must be hard to find that right balance, which was something I found myself thinking while reading Sword of the Gladiatrix.
That being said, I think that Justice did a good job with it. Her setting and characters felt authentic to their history but you could still relate to them. And I like how her Author’s Note expands on her research and choices.
On the overall, I liked the book. I jumped on it because I liked the idea of a historical lesbian romance story; especially in this time period. I think she did a good job, although my main complaint was that it felt like it was rushed at points and the ending felt like it was…too easy. I won’t elaborate on that because I don’t want to give anything away, but it seemed a little anti-climatic for the build up. In retrospect, it’s hard to say “how much so” but I did feel that a bit when I finished. Even so, that doesn’t make it a story I was unhappy to have read.
Also, at one point she refers to a statue of Poseidon. As I recall my history, was not the Roman god of the sea Neptune? I couldn’t tell from the context if this was intentional or a mistake.
Justice did things I particularly did like, though. First off, was the “type” of romance. I think it’s underrepresented in fiction. Not only did she go for that, though, but the characters were different races and cultures.
The Mari and Cari stuff was lovely, and the images of them and Afra in the arena was pretty epic; and it’s cooler that it’s got historical grounding.
Lastly, and this really has nothing to do with the story but with the reader, I find it kinda cool that I read this book just a few weeks after reading about Boudica on Rejected Princesses (which is an incredibly fun and awesome site, if you’ve never been).
So…in closing, I liked it. I had some issues, but overall am glad I read the book. 4 Fireballs.