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384 pages, Hardcover
First published February 14, 2017
"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once."
-William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
A spark somewhere deep inside of me flared to life. The tiniest blue flame, with nothing of tinder to catch onto except the delusional hope that I could somehow fight my way back to freedom.
Fallon, the daughter of a king in the Gaul, trained all her life to become a member of the war band -just like her warrior sister, Sorcha, did before her. When Julius Caesar attacked, her father was taken and her sister while succeeding in freeing him, died during the mission. However, Fallon won't realize her dream because she was kidnapped and then sold to an elite training school for female gladiators (gladiatrices) owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. A princess was now a slave and she'll have to work for her sworn enemy to survive, but things don't stop here. Before she realized it, she has to survive her enemies' wrath who will do anything to destroy her. She can no longer ignore her feelings anymore toward Cai anymore, a Roman soldier, and her enemy.
As you noticed, the summary of the events is not short because a lot was happening. I never got bored while reading this book, in every chapter something new occurred. It was addicting and fun. I was considering giving it 4 stars while reading the first half of the book. It was so good, a new idea, action-packed book, and likable characters. Until you notice that these characters stay the same. No character development here. Even though Fallon came a long way from the beginning, she was just the same. She might have changed some of her views toward Romans but it stopped there. I didn't hate her of course, she almost didn't do anything stupid, she was smart and sarcastic sometimes but still 2-dimentional. I know almost nothing about her past life, maybe some memories with Sorcha and her life in general with her childhood best friend, Mael (will get to him later). I wish we learned more about her life before she was captured because then we would know exactly what she really lost. We didn't know if she had a good relationship with her father, for example, or some of her adventures with Mael that made their friendship so strong. The king seemed like a stranger although he's her only family. Mind you, she didn't fret about her past more than necessary. That's something I liked yet even though the book hooked me from page one, a chapter about her life in her homeland wouldn't have done any harm.
So this part is about Mael, in the first 2 chapters they confess their love. Anything that happens in the 10% of the book is not considered a spoiler, yet, so much was happening in this one. A surprising event happened in the first few chapters and I'm not sure if I can tell so read this paragraph at your own risk or just skip it.
I found Mael sweet and caring, yet couldn't develop any feelings or attachment toward him since he was dead before we knew more of him. Obviously, since we know she'll love Cai from the summary, I expected him to die or something but not like this. My main problem with this is that she started loving Cai while not too quickly since few months passed too early while she did not exactly forget about Mael, she surely liked Cai too fast. Her love relationship with Mael was kinda nonsense, I didn't feel the chemistry between the two and she claims later that she loved him yet in no time, she had her eyes on Cai. Maybe (and of course) her feelings toward Mael weren't real but I wanted her to realize this but she didn't. I also didn't swoon for them but I would've been fine with it if it wasn't for Mael.
Another aspect I liked about this book was the female friendship. In her journey to Rome, Fallon meets Elka, a fellow slave. After their fight, they quickly become best friends. I loved Elka. She was strong, funny, smart, and so much more. Until she disappeared almost completely from the plot in the second half of the book. I wish we knew more about her. We learned about her past briefly but Fallon was too much focused on her own life that she never wondered how her friend was doing. She was just always there. I was disappointed when I didn't see more of their times together. When the book is fast-paced, it risks being rushed. While rushed books are fun they end up having so many plot holes, that's the case of The Valiant. The characters were so dull. When you look in the depth of the book, you can't feel nor hatred nor real affection to the characters not even to Fallon's enemies. The idea was original, the story was compelling but it stops there.
I rarely take time in my reviews to talk about the writing style, this book is an exception since I have a lot to say about it. It's not that I don't care about it but rather as a non-English speaker, I honestly admit that I might miss many things. Thus, in most of the books, the writing style is okay. Many times I notice that the ebooks have some mistakes but wonder if my copy was edited for some reason and leave it there. Therefore, when I, someone with tons of mistakes, notice that the writing style is too plain with many errors, you'll know it's the truth. There was nothing impressive about it. It was so average while not exactly bad it had nothing special only some fancy words from time to time. Other than that, it was bland. There were some grammar mistakes and even typos (but maybe my copy-edited, again). Some books suffer from over descriptive paragraphs. In The Valiant, no matter how hard I tried, the picture of the area where the events were happening (Rome, the fighting pits, the dorm..) stayed blurry. Sometimes you think it's your problem but when you're reading a book with someone and you both notice this stuff, you know it's not you. The world-building was also lacking. I mean not all of us know about ancient Rome and how it looks like exactly, right? She didn't even know how so I expected more details. Again, rushed books cons, they lack a good description. Even though the dialogues were kinda stiff, they kept the story going.
You know that cliche when the character make a hasty stupid decision and it turns out to be a disaster? Well, this book wasn't an exception. I was disappointed to see it happening here because I'm pretty sure it could've been avoided and done in a better way. Also, the ending gave me some hunger games vibes, I will leave it here because I don't want to spoil anything but know that I'm not talking about tributes and such, if you ever read this book, you'll know what I mean.
I don't know if this book is historically accurate, if we had gladiatrices during Caesar's reign but it's hard to get right facts from these days and it's also fantasy, at least, Lesley Livingston didn't enter real historical characters minds although she mentioned them and our Fallon met some at a point, yet, she didn't give us a wrong idea about them. Something I can't say about the Bear and the Nightingale even though it was obvious that the author Katherine Arden did more researches for her book (it's kind demanding since it only happened a few centuries ago while in Livingston's case, millennials). I appreciate that Lesley avoided real people as much as possible because she'll risk accuracy and it would be a subject of debate whether their personalities were really like this or not.
While this might sound like a negative review, I thoroughly enjoyed The Valiant more than any book I read and that was released in 2017. I would highly recommend it if you're a fan of a plot-driven story or if you're looking for a quick read. If we had more character development and a better writing style, I would've given this book 4 stars without second thoughts. It had so much potential, too bad it wasn't invested or I'm pretty sure it was going to be a big hit this year.
One last thing, don't be afraid, this book has no cliffhanger but I'm sure I will read the Defiant as soon as it comes out!
"I will endure to be burned . . . to be bound . . . to be beaten . . . and to be killed by the sword."