The Valiant Five Star Review + Were There Really Gladiatrices?!

I am a HUGE fan of anything ancient Rome. Add in a fierce female protagonist, a swoony love interest, and a heart-pounding plot line, well, you’ve got the combination for one PHENOMENAL book!

Wine Pairing

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

How could I possibly pair this Roman-inspired novel with anything other than an Italian wine. This Bartenura Moscato happens to be one of my FAVORITE wines and it also happens to look awesome with this book cover!

*All wine recommendations are for strictly for those of legal drinking age only.*

The Nitty Gritty

  • Title: The Valiant
  • Author: Lesley Livingston
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Pub Date: February 14, 2017
  • Pages: 372

GoodReads Description:

30375703.jpgPrincess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier. 


My Review


I fell in love with this book the moment I heard about it, and Lesley Livingston’s delivery of the story more than lived up to my expectations. This was such a fun read, absolutely brimming with historical facts and theories. And one of the coolest things about this book, gladiatrices might actually have been a real thing!

I adored Fallon as a main character. She is fierce, smart, and also incredibly loyal. Her love for her family definitely makes her a character that you’ll relate to. Basically, you’ll just want to be her.

The world building is expertly done. Livingston has taken the facts that we know about ancient Rome and combined them with fiction in a way that feels so authentic and brings the whole world to life. She also included some major historical figures in the story, and it was so much fun to see them there, including Ceasar and Cleopatra. It’s fascinating to imagine what their personalities would have actually been like, and I adored Livingston’s take on them, Cleopatra in particular.

There is a truly phenomenal cast of characters in this book. The love interest, the friends, the enemies, the complex familial relationships. I just ate it all up and was so thrilled when I checked Goodreads and found out that this is book 1 in a series! Wahoo!

This book is like the movie Gladiator meets Graceling, and it is FIRE!

Cover Rating


This cover is perfect. It highlights the sheer awesomeness of Fallon’s character perfectly. The color scheme is perfect, and the arena is exactly what I imagine the Colosseum in Rome would have looked like during Caesar’s time.

Swoon Worthiness


The romance between Fallon and Cai is SUPER swoony. There’s so much romantic tension between them, and Livingston delivers it in the slow-burn style that I love so much. Cai has a character arc that makes him just the PERFECT guy for Fallon, and I can’t wait to check out their relationship status in book 2.

Were There Really Gladiatrices?

So, I adore reading historical fiction and historical fantasy, because I love to be able to Google locations, characters, and facts while I read. I love to have that added depth to my reading experience. So I did a little bit of research on gladiatrices while I was reading and was astounded to find out that they probably were an actual thing.

In the back of the book, Livingston also acknowledges the fact that there were most likely female gladiatrices, and she also discusses some of the research she did while writing the book. Be sure to check that out after you read  The Valiant.

Here’s a few fun facts I found by the power of the internets while reading:

  • There is some physical evidence that suggests the existence of the gladiatrix, including graves and the relief of two gladiatrcies pictured below.
  • There are also a very few written accounts documented of gladiatrices by Rome’s ancient elite.
  • It is believed that a female gladiatrix would have fought each other, or wild animals, to entertain audiences, just as the gladiators did.
  • Many have speculated that emperor Septimus Severus may have been the driving force behind the gladiatrices, bringing them into the arena in an attempt to create a dignified display of female athletics.
  • While male gladiators are widely celebrated and acknowledged, the relief below is the only near-certain depiction of the female gladiatrices existence.


A Photo Tour of the Colosseum

I visited Rome and the Colosseum last year with my family. Here are a few pictures of what is left of the ancient arena that Fallon may have fought in today.

 About Lesley Livingston


LESLEY LIVINGSTON is a writer living in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of twelve books to date. Her first novel, WONDROUS STRANGE, was winner of the CLA Young Adult Book of the Year 2010, a White Pine Honour Book, shortlisted for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Speculative Fiction, and in 2015 was named one of CBC’s “100 YA Books That Make You Proud To Be Canadian”. DARKLIGHT, the second book in this series was a finalist for the Indigo Teen Read Awards. The concluding volume in the trilogy, TEMPESTUOUS, was a finalist for the Monica Hughes Award. These books have sold to more than ten countries to date, and WONDROUS STRANGE has been optioned for film/TV by Shaftesbury Films. Her other trilogies have both won the Copper Cylinder award for Young Adult fiction.

In addition to her books for teen readers, Lesley is also co-author of a Middle Grade series with Jonathan Llyr called THE WIGGINS WEIRD. The first book, HOW TO CURSE IN HIEROGLYPHICS was shortlisted for the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award and was longlisted for the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Young Readers Book of the Year award. It was also chosen as one of the selections for the 2016 First Book Canada All-Star Reading Challenge.

Lesley’s newest novel is a YA historical epic, THE VALIANT, which will be published in February 2017 by Penguin Razorbill (US) and HarperCollins (CAN) and tells the story of a 17-year-old girl’s journey from fierce Celtic princess to female gladiator and the darling of the Roman Empire.

For almost three years, Lesley hosted weekly late-night movie marathons on the nationally broadcast television show, SPACEBAR, as the Waitron-9000, a sparkly holographic waitress with an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure B-movie trivia. For almost two decades, she was a principal performer with Tempest Theatre Group, a Toronto-based Shakespearean theatre company.

Have you read The Valiant yet? How fascinating do you find the idea of the gladiatrices? Have you, or will you, get to meet Lesley during the Penguin Teen Tour?

24 thoughts on “The Valiant Five Star Review + Were There Really Gladiatrices?!

  1. @lynnsbooks says:

    I loved this – absolutely loved it – and can’t wait for number two. I’m going to say I’d pair it with an Amarone wine which is also an Italian wine from Verona. Quite delicious but then I do like reds.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mandy says:

    Wow, I had no clue there was actual gladtrices. (that’s so not the spelling at all but my brain is tired, Krysti, so I’mma just go with it XD). I had no clue they were a thing at all, but that is so ridiculously cool. It definitely makes me want to read this book even more. I had heard some differing views of this, but your review has cemented the deal for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ezinwanyi13 says:

    I fee like you were just in my fridge as I had the Bartenura Moscato yesterday evening. Its one of my favorites as I had it on New Years eve the last couple of years. Good stuff.
    I don’t know those books at all, LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Lovely review! I’ve seen this book around, but I’m holding off for now. I don’t like to read series until all the books are released. That said, your review is *very* persuasive! I can’t wait for the rest of the books to be released so I can pick them up.

    I love the history you shared! Do you do this often with historical fiction? What historical fiction sent you on the longest Google rabbit hole?

    Liked by 1 person

    • YAandWine says:

      It’s such a fun book! I love the anticipation of waiting for a next book in series, because I’m weird, and I’m DEFINITELY excited for this one! I always google when I read historical fiction. My favorite examples of when I’ve done that though are this one, Blood Rose Rebellion, and The Bone Season. The Bone Season isn’t historical fiction, but it includes real places and the spirits of famous British ghosts, which I think is REALLY cool.

      Liked by 1 person

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