A Celtic princess is abducted, enslaved, and sent to a gladiatrix school in Julius Caesar’s Rome.
Fallon wishes to follow in the footsteps of her warrior older sister, Sorcha, who was lost leading a war band to recover their father, the king, after he was taken prisoner during a Roman incursion into Prydain. But, unwilling to risk losing another daughter, he has other plans—plans that spiral into devastating, unintended consequences, culminating in Fallon’s abduction by slavers bound for Rome. While she doesn’t make it easy for them, they do get her to Rome, where she is sold at auction to a school that trains women to fight in the arenas. She grapples with her sense of honor while dealing with rivals, romance, a big surprise, and a bigger, hidden threat. Fallon’s warrior development follows a familiar trajectory in which her potential is annealed through hard work; the amount of rescuing she needs early on may frustrate. The forbidden romance isn’t as convincing as the lush setting, which includes a complicated depiction of Roman slavery in which even slaves have mixed opinions on the institution. The ending resolves the immediate crisis while leaving plenty of threads up in the air for sequels. An author’s note credits the 2001 discovery of evidence of real-life woman gladiators as the jumping-off point for this work of fiction.
A familiar-feeling historical adventure elevated by use of setting. (Historical fiction. 12-16)