YA Weekend Audio: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

the-valiantThe Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Book 1 of The Valiant

Publisher: Listening Library (February 14, 2017)

Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Fiona Hardingham

What an amazing surprise this was! Though to be honest, I had no idea what to expect at first, only that from the moment I saw the book description for The Valiant, I knew I had to read it. I make it no secret that I am fascinated with anything to do with Ancient Rome, and so historical fiction set in this time period is like an instant Mogsy magnet. And secondly, FEMALE GLADIATORS.

The story follows Fallon, daughter of a Celtic king and younger sister to the late legendary warrior Sorcha who fell to the legions of Julius Caesar while fighting in defense of her homeland. Despite a druid’s prophecy predicting that she will meet the same end as her sister, Fallon remains undaunted and determined to follow in Sorcha’s footsteps, hoping to one day join her father’s fighting force. She even turns down a marriage proposal from the boy she loves, knowing she must make her mark on the world before she could make such a commitment.

However, when the big day finally comes, instead of formally accepting Fallon into his war band, her father instead surprises everyone by announcing her betrothal to her true love’s brother, a Roman sympathizer. The king cites political reasons for his decision, and also because he cannot bear the thought of losing another daughter to war, but Fallon is unappeased and furious at what she sees as a betrayal.

At this point, you might think you know how this story will play out, or that all the components are laid out on the table. Within the first handful of chapters, we are introduced to a protagonist who has spent her entire life worshiping her older sister while also growing up in her shadow, and even after Sorcha’s death, all Fallon wants is to live up to her memory. Then there are the two boys around Fallon’s own age who for years have been fostered at her father’s castle, vying for Fallon’s affections. But while Fallon fell in love with one, her father decided to marry her off to the other. “Oh, this is a scenario that feels a little familiar,” I thought. “I have a few guesses about what might happen.”

Well, I was wrong about that. There were definitely plenty of surprises, a couple of which came very early on in the book too. I’m not going to spoil what they are, but suffice to say, they altered my predictions for the story entirely. Fallon ends up being captured by slavers and shipped off to Rome, where her steel resolve catches the attention of a representative for a school for female gladiators, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While The Valiant is marketed as a YA fantasy, in fact gladiatrices did exist in ancient Roman times, though they were very, very rare. They were seen more as novelties, according to the few accounts that have survived. And more than likely, they were not viewed or treated with the same regard as their male counterparts. No evidence either has been found of the training of female gladiators, or schools dedicated to them. So in a sense, this book does fall into the historical fantasy category, in the way it attempts to imagine a picture of what life would have been like if gladiatrices had been a big part of ancient Roman culture, in and out of the arena.

By combining history and elements from her own incredible imagination, the author brings the vivid world of The Valiant to life. Details are noticeably on the lighter side when it comes to setting, but Livingston makes up for it by creating an atmosphere that feels distinctly and authentically “Ancient Roman”, allowing readers to fill in any gaps with their own knowledge or understanding of the time period. I also loved the protagonist. At times, I might have found her a tad too melodramatic, but other than that, I don’t really have any major complaints about Fallon or any of the other characters. As I mentioned before, the story is sufficiently unpredictable and I was taken by surprise by a couple plot points. I might also have bemoaned the lack of gladiatorial fights in the first half of the book, but the second half showed me why it’s important to be patient. Towards the end, the ferocious action and the intense thrills succeeded in blowing me away.

In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. The category for my favorite YA novel of 2017 officially has its first contender, folks. If there’s any justice in the world, this book will be huge and it will deserve all the attention it gets. The future of this series promises to be exciting both on and off the arena floor, and I can’t wait to read more of Fallon and her sisterhood of ruthless and tough gladiators.

Audiobook Comments: I was lucky enough to be offered the audiobook of The Valiant for review, and I found it to be another splendid example of a fast-paced and addictive listen. Personally, I thought the narrator Fiona Hardingham did a great job voicing Fallon’s story. I love her accent and the emotions she puts into her reading, and I would not hesitate to recommend The Valiant audiobook to anyone considering this format.


Mogsy 2

35 Comments on “YA Weekend Audio: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston”

  1. Pingback: YA Weekend Audio: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston | Fantasy Sources of Art, Gifts, Books, and Article Resources

  2. It’s no mystery I’m always wary of YA-themed stories, but your description of this one (apart from Female! Gladiators! 😀 ) was enough to had me place it at the top of my “next” list: an author who starts with deceptively predictable to veer off sharply into a different direction is always worth a try.

    And given the genre and the time period chosen, I wonder if the author is perhaps related to Michael Livingston… I just finished his Gates of Hell and confirmed that historical fantasy is one of my pet genres… 🙂


  3. This wasn’t even on my radar to be honest. But WOW, high praise from Mogsy! Now I’ll have to consider buying a copy. The idea of female gladiators fascinates me!


  4. Whoa, clearly I need to revisit this one! The whole “female gladiators in YA” premise made me wary of the potential for poor execution, but it sounds like Livingston did an amazing job with it! Plus, she’s Canadian. 😉


  5. I love Fiona Hardingham!! She rocked The Scorpio Races audiobook (which won an Odessey award for best YA audiobook of the year). Awesome, I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this one. I’ll have to read it via audio 🙂 Thanks for the great review!


  6. I love Fiona Hardingham as a narrator and this book sounds very interesting. Ancient Rome is seriously cool…and cruel. Ripe for Drama with a capital D. I’ll put this on my Audible wish list!


      • I did so love this – I even went and checked out about female Gladiators (gladiatrix??) on the internet after I’d finished! I guess that’s about the closest that the author comes to fantasy (like you said) there certainly aren’t any dragons, or angry gods – but, you know, I really didn’t miss it for this particular story. It was so gripping that I loved it – I actually read it in one day – I had a brief break in between but otherwise I just sat and read! I can’ wait for No.2.
        Lynn 😀


  7. I was worried that this book would be too similar to the movie Gladiator but now that I’ve read your review, I’m going to add it to my tbr shelf straight away. I’m obsessed with Ancient Rome and add female Gladiators to that and I am SO there!!


  8. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  9. Pingback: YA Weekend Audio: The Defiant by Lesley Livingston | The BiblioSanctum

  10. Pingback: YA Weekend Audio: The Triumphant by Lesley Livingston | The BiblioSanctum

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