St. Martin’s, Apr 14 2009, $14.95
In the first century, those opposing the ever expanding Roman Empire are either killed or brought into the arena to serve as gladiators. The spectacle does not care about gender as female gladiators are a welcomed sight.
Nineteen year old Athena priestess Lysandra of Sparta is taken prisoner after a shipwreck. She is sent to combat school to learn to fight in the arena. She soon enters the combat zone owned by slaver Lucius Balbus and proves capable winning her battles. Her goal and that of her lover Secunda Eirianwen are to win their freedom. Whereas he battles a foe in a war to the death she enters mortal combat with an equally lethal adversary.
This is an intriguing action-packed ancient Rome thriller that puts a gender bender spin to classic movies like Spartacus and Gladiator. The story line is action-packed from the opening sequence when the tall thin Lysandra defeats her short stocky barbaric opponent and never slows down. Readers will have mixed feelings towards her as at times we will root for her and in other times incidents are against her. Although a lack of a sense of being in the first century Roman Empire (minimal background information to anchor time and place) detracts from the interesting “sports” fiction, Russell Whitfield provides the audience with an exciting tale of survival in the arena.