Though the back cover sells this book as a woman-centered take on Spartacus, readers will get the impression the author repeatedly played “Gladiator” and “300” video games while writing this story.
It’s the tale of 17-year-old Attia, the educated, Roman-enslaved daughter and only living child of Thracian warrior ruler Sparro, who named her the heir to his kingdom when she was 7 and later died battling the Romans, who annihilated her particular people, the Maedis. The warrior princess almost successfully battles her own way to freedom from sexual and household slavery until she’s recaptured by the watchmen of her new owner, the ruthless Timeus, a wealthy barker for the gladiatorial fights. Timeus buys Attia to emotionally tie his champion gladiator, 19-year-old Xanthus Maximus Colossus, to his own slavery and, by extension, to keep winning in the arena and increasing Timeus’ political capital. This is a textbook epic novel—sweeping fact, such as the volcanic destruction of Pompeii, and fiction into a tale of two heroes motivated by love for each other and conquered-nation pride. And it’s a textbook that’s fun reading on an after-chores Saturday or a curl-up-in-bed Sunday.
In this era of Katniss Everdeen, 300’s Gorgo, The Matrix’s Trinity, and the recently rebooted Wonder Woman, it takes more than a female Spartacus to make a thoughtfully feminist adventure. (Historical fiction/romance. 13-18)