Lesley Livingston is at it again. The popular author has built her career on stories that combine her love of historical and mythical settings with kick-ass female protagonists, and her newest creation is no exception. For The Valiant, Livingston transports readers to her version of ancient Rome, where female gladiators fight just as bravely and dangerously as their male counterparts.
The story centres on the courageous and headstrong Fallon, a Celtic princess who aspires to join her father’s royal war band. But on the eve of her 17th birthday, Fallon is kidnapped, transported to Rome, and sold to an exclusive training facility for female gladiators. Fallon fights to stay alive and prove her worth both in and out of the arena, and Livingston’s Rome is truly larger than life, with grisly battles, vicious rivalries, forbidden romance, and even appearances by Julius Caesar and Cleopatra – not that the tale is lacking in strong characters. Fallon’s the girl you want by your side in a fight: she is a fierce warrior, but a fierce friend, too. Most of the supporting cast is equally vibrant and complex.
The novel’s only real weak spot is its reliance on re-introducing characters to advance the story. Two main plot points involve Fallon encountering characters she thought were lost to her, and while it’s an effective twist the first time, the second time this happens, it feels too convenient.
Although Livingston doesn’t leave Fallon’s story with any major cliffhangers, she does keep a few plot lines open enough to return to them in a sequel. With such a strong heroine and richly created world, fans will no doubt clamour for more of Fallon’s fast-paced adventures.