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Sword of the Gladiatrix

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Two women. Two swords. One victor.
An action-packed tale that exposes the brutal underside of Imperial Rome, "Sword of the Gladiatrix" brings to life unforgettable characters and exotic settings. From the far edges of the Empire, two women come to battle on the hot sands of the arena in Nero's Rome: Afra, scout and beast master to the Queen of Kush; and Cinnia, warrior-bard and companion to Queen Boudica of the British Iceni. Enslaved, forced to fight for their lives and the Romans' pleasure; they seek to replace lost friendship, love, and family in each other's arms. But the Roman arena offers only two futures: the Gate of Life for the victors or the Gate of Death for the losers.

260 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 27, 2015

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About the author

Faith L. Justice

12 books61 followers
Faith L. Justice is a science geek and history junkie who writes award-winning novels, short stories, and articles in her historic Brooklyn home. She’s published in venues such as Salon.com, Writer's Digest, Strange Horizons, The Copperfield Review and Circles in the Hair.

You can read her stories, interviews with famous authors, and sample chapters of her novels at her website . Check out her blog for historical fiction book reviews, interviews with HF authors, "History in the News" roundups and giveaways.

Faith lives with her husband, daughter and the required gaggle of cats. For fun, she likes to dig in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.

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5 stars
16 (27%)
4 stars
21 (35%)
3 stars
17 (28%)
2 stars
3 (5%)
1 star
2 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Patty.
1,191 reviews32 followers
July 9, 2015
I love stories that take place in Ancient Rome. This is a little bit later in Rome’s history than I usually read but it was still fascinating to look at the period through different eyes; those of female gladiators. Apparently there were indeed such fighters as Rome fell into its decline. As the Emperors looked for more exotic entertainments for the arena.

Two women from opposite ends of the Roman Empire end up as slaves of the same man; Afra from Kush and Cinnia from Britain. Their stories are similar in that they were warriors in their home countries until disaster befalls them and now they find themselves owned by a man who wants to use them as entertainment. In their common circumstance they find comfort, friendship and love.

It was truly interesting to visit this time period through the eyes of these characters. They are both strong, unique and well drawn. It’s great to have a book centering around female characters in Ancient times. Yes, it is also their love story but it is not overly graphic. I was fascinated to learn in the author’s note that female gladiators were a part of this time. The book is well researched and easy to read.
Profile Image for Tony Riches.
Author 21 books439 followers
August 25, 2015
Faith L Justice has a deep fascination with the world of ancient Rome and her passion for this lost era shines through in her new novel, Sword of the Gladiatrix. Like most readers, I came to the book with mixed expectations, wondering if it was going to be a cross between Spartacus and Xena, Warrior Princess. Right from the start, however, I was gripped by Faith’s great writing style – and hardly put it down until I reached the end.

I remember being told once that no book was ever improved by a prologue. Faith proves this wrong, as she sets up a ‘cliff hanger’ which the reader spends the rest of the book hoping to resolve. I particularly liked the way two stories, of different culture (either of which could have carried the book alone), interchange and gradually merge in the melting pot of the Roman Empire.

The two heroines of Sword of the Gladiatrix are memorable and original, and Faith has achieved the difficult challenge of making me care even about the minor characters. The love scenes were handled sensitively and provide a counterpoint to the inevitable savagery of the gladiatorial arena. Highly recommended – and I’m hoping there is going to be a sequel, as I’m keen to know what happened next.
Profile Image for Inked Reads.
825 reviews21 followers
May 30, 2015
I was sent this book by Inked Rainbow Reads in exchange for an honest review.

An amazing and totally original and unique novel. Such a strong range of female characters are depicted, courageous, brave, cunning, deadly, deceitful a complete gambit of credible and totally believable women.

Ms Justice has certainly done her research and this is evident in this convincing tale. Countries are travelled, religions explained, rituals rationalized all this while a relationship between two dominant females unfolds.

For me this novel was a learning experience in conjunction with a sensational story line. If you are looking for a novel to pique your historic interest while keeping you transfixed with an audacious narrative then this book will not disappoint.

The only reason I did not award this 5 stars was my slight disappointment with the rather conventional ending.
I was given this in return for an honest review by Inked Rainbow Reads.
Profile Image for Natazzz.
152 reviews9 followers
December 23, 2021
This book was equal parts boring and depressing, with some random wtf scenes thrown in. Why would anyone want to write a book like this?
Profile Image for Bella.
52 reviews
July 10, 2015
(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.
Profile Image for Marie Parsons.
Author 4 books30 followers
January 4, 2020
This is a well researched story, centered on two female gladiators of Rome-Cinnia from Britannia, Amani or Afra, from Kush.

Their stories leading to the arena are told in separate parallel, each richly depicting their respective culture, and the meeting of both cultures with the might of Emperor Nero's Rome.

The world-building is finely detailed, with prayers to gods such as Cernunnos in Britannia, or Isis in Kush. Boudicca's revolt against Rome forms part of Cinna's story-Cinna, captured by Romans, mistreated until entered into the gladiator school; Afra's skill as a hunter in Kush, her training of two cheetah cubs, and her being sold to a Roman trader, bring her eventually to the gladiator school.

Cinna and Afra become friends and then lovers, only to be separated, never knowing if they will again meet. The details of Pompeii's early earthquake, the gladiator training, the brutality of various characters and kindness of others--each enhances this well-crafted tale of two women, fighting in a world not kind at all.

Yes this is a tale of gladiators, but it is not just a story about bloodletting and survival. It is a story of human spirit, hope, and the will to take and keep control of one's destiny.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Ryan Greystone.
51 reviews1 follower
September 27, 2021
I was happy to find a historical fiction of the wlw variety that was set further than 200 years ago. Three cultures are touched upon, from Rome to two opposite sides of it, Kush and Britannia, and the story hit upon some real historical events too. I enjoyed reading about all of that, including it touching upon female gladiators, which few books mention. But, I felt like most of this was too rushed. Everything was basically glossed over, including the romance, which was the main motivator for the second half the of book. You could understand why it would develop, but in the story, it was just suddenly there. The actual development was pretty glossed over, leaving most of it to your imagination instead of showing us the journey. As was much of the gladiatorial training and fights. The entire story seemed rushed, and that was pretty disappointing. I'd give a 2.5.
Profile Image for Amanda [Novel Addiction].
3,221 reviews89 followers
October 26, 2015
Absolutely fantastic. I cared about these women and what happened to them. The ending felt short, but definitely sweet - and it was left open enough that I could imagine an even better ending for the pair.

Author Faith L. Justice is one of those small-press authors that I can't understand why more people don't know about, or why they haven't gotten picked up by a larger press. She clearly knows what she's doing when it comes to writing fiction, and her books are amazingly well researched. This is the second book I have read by her, and the both got high ratings.

Review will be up on my blog asap.
Profile Image for Heidi.
336 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2021
My god, this was a depressing read! All the murder, rape, slavery, dehumanization.
Romance wise, I also missed the tension and build up, the chemistry, between the women.
This is not what I look for in a book.
Profile Image for Cheyanne.
122 reviews4 followers
March 21, 2019
3.5/5, rounded up to 4 because Lesbian Gladiators.

I think the author’s love for history shines through in this book; it’s clearly well researched and well situated in its historical context. I liked both of he main two characters; I think they both had a lovely mix of toughness and tenderness.

I think that the author struggled with some of the dramatic tension and pacing that would have really set this book ahead. The first half is rather slow, and then the events of the second half move a little too quickly. I think the author could have made the flow of the story feel a little more exciting (I mean, it’s about gladiators!) of the tension had been drawn out more in some places. The ending also felt particularly abrupt—not necessarily unbelievable, but teetering on that edge.

I enjoyed the writing style; it’s very clean, descriptive and emotive without being too flowery. I think the book could have used one more pass over by an editor with focus on commas, though (my biggest pet peeve!)

Overall, a somewhat slow but enjoyable read— and I mean, it’s about lesbian gladiators. The world certainly needs more of that.
Profile Image for Celina.
975 reviews55 followers
February 17, 2023


That was crazy. The book was rough, I will admit because history books and women, sometimes that's a bad combination because men are the snakes that terrorize peace.

Afra, a black woman. Cinnia, a white woman. Fate brings them together and my god that moment when it did, Afra was everything that could save Cinnia and Cinnia brought joy back to Afra's soul.

The things they endured, it was heartbreaking. And Clio, that evil woman. And the cheetahs; Mari and Cari, I loved them. That fight scene between Cinnia and Afra was amazing. And the ending was perfect because God forbid the alternative was just so Shakespeare.

Ps: The way this author was throwing around violence against women... 😑 Not cute.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 27 books293 followers
July 9, 2015
Having read and enjoyed Russell Whitfield's Gladiatrix, I was pretty excited to give this a go. You can't have too much of a good thing, and women fighting each other in Roman times makes a very exciting story. Throw a conflict such as two women who love each other being forced to fight each other and it's doubly interesting.

But at the same time having read a similar twist before, it made this book a tad predictable. On top of that, the heroines do not actually becomes gladiatrixes until about 65%, so calling this Sword of the Gladiatrix seems a little like false advertising.

That being said, I did enjoy the story. For some reason I connected with Afra way more than I did Cinnia. Cinnia's parts began with her fighting for Boudica. I should have loved this, but her parts fell flat for me and I didn't care for her flashbacks or dreams. Afra's scenes took place in Africa and began when she worked for her Kandake. Circumstances with her stepsister lead to her being enslaved and taken to Rome where she works wonders on a pair of hunting cats. I really liked her character. Cinnia rubbed me wrong a few times and she also ruined the romance for me by getting it on with another chick in the story. What kind of love is that?

Full review and favorite quote: http://wwwbookbabe.blogspot.com/2015/...
Profile Image for Molly Lolly.
834 reviews3 followers
August 27, 2015
Original review on Molly Lolly
Three and a half stars!
This story was absolutely fascinating. I really enjoyed Afra and Cinnia. They were wonderful characters you truly get to know through the story. You connect with them and want them to make it through everything thrown their way. The adventures they go through were very well described. There were times you’re kept on the edge of your seat wondering if they’re going to make it out alive, let alone together. The pacing, however was slow from time to time, and I had trouble getting into the book at the beginning. There were a few things that happened that I truly didn’t think they would have survived. The biggest being Afra surviving a severe beating, going so far as to come out strong enough to become a successful Gladiatrix. I loved how the fights were described. I felt like I was there watching the fights. The history was very rich and written in a way that didn’t feel cumbersome. You could tell Ms. Justice knows about the time period and did her research.
Profile Image for Christine Close.
151 reviews1 follower
May 20, 2015
Four stars: f/f historical

I was sent this book by Inked Rainbow Reads in exchange for an honest review.

An amazing and totally original and unique novel. Such a strong range of female characters are depicted, courageous, brave, cunning, deadly, deceitful a complete gambit of credible and totally believable women.

Ms Justice has certainly done her research and this is evident in this convincing tale. Countries are travelled, religions explained, rituals rationalized all this while a relationship between two dominant females unfolds.

For me this novel was a learning experience in conjunction with a sensational story line. If you are looking for a novel to pique your historic interest while keeping you transfixed with an audacious narrative then this book will not disappoint.

The only reason I did not award this 5 stars was my slight disappointment with the rather conventional ending
Profile Image for Elysium.
389 reviews53 followers
July 10, 2015
3,5 stars

I’ve never read anything about female gladiators so that was new. I’ve never been huge fan of Romans and this didn’t make me like them more… Afra comes from Kush and Cinnia is a Celt from Britain so we get a look to two very different cultures.

I wish there would have been more fighting scenes. We see how Afra and Cinnia becomes slaves, we follow their lives in slavery but the actual gladiator stuff is pretty small part of the story. They were both likeable but I think they fell in love rather too quickly. I liked the parts with Boudica and I wish there would have been more of her.

It was great to read about something that hasn’t been widely written about and you can tell the author has done her research.
Profile Image for Herman.
494 reviews20 followers
February 7, 2017
This is a very good book, historically accurate but interesting twists and turns I would love it as a film also this is my first book with lesbian main characters and it was a pretty good exciting dramatic story. Doubt anyone would make a large budget film out of it but maybe a illustrated book even Graphic Novel could be nice if done in a high realism style. (At least that's the way see it) As a story of two lovers from different parts of the world end up in fighting to the death in the forum with some unexpected turns but realistic storyline. Wasn't expecting this was going to be this good have to read some more of this Authors works.
Profile Image for Janelle Trees.
109 reviews13 followers
November 15, 2021
Engaging and stimulating.
I didn’t know whether the lead characters were to be lovers (which can be annoying when you’re a lesbian).
I found the early chapters a bit slow and worried that there were too many characters with names starting with A.
But by chapter 4 I was hooked for the ride. The story focussed on people we cared about by then.
And the story carried me all the way through.
Intelligence: emotional and intellectual, compassion and wisdom are quietly present. Trauma-informed erotica. It’s a thing.
This was a memorable book, a story well told.
Profile Image for Kim.
49 reviews14 followers
July 10, 2015
I received this book for an honest review

I love books on Ancient Rome and this book was no exception. What I found most fascinating was this was about female gladiators instead of the usual male gladiators. You have two women Afra and Cinnia who have become enslaved and forced to become gladiators. These two brave woman find friendship and love in each other's arms and face death each time they step into the arena.
If you like books on Ancient Rome then I highly recommend this one!
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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