Series: Gladiatrix #1
Published by: Myrmidon Books on March 18, 2008
Genre: Action, Historical Fiction
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The Ancient Roman public's hunger for gladiatorial combat has never been greater. The Emperor Domitian's passion for novelty and variety in the arena has given rise to a very different kind of warrior: the Gladiatrix. Sole survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of Asia Minor, Lysandra finds herself the property of Lucius Balbus, owner of the foremost Ludus for female gladiators in the Eastern Empire. Lysandra, a member of an ancient Spartan sect of warrior priestesses, refuses to accept her new status as a slave. Forced to fight for survival, her deadly combat skills win the adoration of the crowds, the respect of Balbus. But Lysandra's Spartan pride also earns her powerful enemies: Sorina, Gladiatrix Prima and leader of the Barbarian faction, and the sadistic Numidian trainer, Nastasen. When plans are laid for the ultimate combat spectacle to honor the visit of the emperor's powerful new emissary, Lysandra must face her greatest and deadliest trial. This is a thrilling first novel that combines fascinating historical detail with blistering action.
When I found this book and read the plot summary, my first thought was “Holy crap! It’s like Spartacus/Gladiator for girls!” Awesome! Since Spartacus is one of my favourite TV shows and Gladiator is an epic film, I had high hopes for this book. But even with my high hopes, I was not prepared for how much I would absolutely love this book!
When going into this book, I expected the violence, the fame, and the bloodlust — all expected when you’re reading a gladiator book.. But I didn’t expect this book to be so full of emotion. Love, lust, rage, loss, suffering, revenge. I found myself hoping, praying, crying, and sympathizing. This book seriously yanked at my emotions! Gladiatrix is so much more than just the bloody life of a gladiator. It follows the life of a slave — with all the hurts, dreams, and losses that that entails.
I felt every betrayal, every pain, and every loss so much more potently through the words of a book. I’ve seen them on screen in Spartacus and Gladiator, but Russell Whitfield magnificently weaved the story to tug at my emotions and really make me feel for the main character — even if I was annoyed with her. I felt like everything that happened to her was happening to me.
At the beginning, I fell in love with the main character, Lysandra. I completely sympathized with her situation. She was once an honoured Spartan warrior priestess but was captured and thrown into a world of gladitorial arts and slavery. That’s obviously a huge change and something that would be extremely difficult to adapt to. So I completely understood when Lysandra lost her will to fight and felt as if she shamed her people and her priesthood.
From there, I constantly flipflopped between being annoyed with her, hating her, admiring her, and sympathizing with her. She proved to be arrogant and self important. It was an interesting form of arrogance though. It’s not like she ignored everyone because she thought she was better than them. She thought she was better than them so she felt obligated to walk around saying, “I’m more knowledgeable than you so it’s my duty to help you.” So I guess it was a bit of a double edged sword. She was a little annoying, but at least she was trying to be helpful.
But on the other hand, she is incredibly knowledgeable and strong, and I LOVE that in a character. And throughout all her hardships, I found myself wanting to reach out and hug her or something.
As a bit of a warning, this book is very sexual and very violent. That could turn people away from it. As for me, I love a good sex book and I like action movies so violence doesn’t bother me. But in addition to just having sex, Gladiatrix does have some pretty vulgar scenes (rape). So keep that in mind if you’re thinking about reading the book.
But back to the subject.. I thought the romance in the book was brilliantly crafted. I fell in love with Lysandra’s relationship with her lover and every word felt so genuine and real. At first I was kind of put off by the lesbian relationship, only because I can’t really relate and I thought I’d prefer something that catered more toward my own sexual orientation.. but after a while, I didn’t care any more. I loved the relationship and I could relate to their feelings completely.
My biggest gripe with this book was the ending. There was a huge build up but I kind of felt unsatisfied and let down, though it was obvious that the main character felt the same way — she didn’t like how things ended. Now the second book, Roma Victrix, takes place four years later, so I’m concerned that I may not get the satisfying ending I wanted from Gladiatrix. But I guess I’ll just have to read the next book and find out!
Thanks for a great read, Russell Whitfield!