Release Date: 03/05/11
Four years have passed since Lysandra's epic but inconclusive battle with her hated rival Sorena in the arena of Halicarnassus and after which both combatants were granted their freedom by the ambitious consul, Trajanus. Now Sorena has found refuge among the Dacian hordes of Decebalus where she leads a vicious troop of horsewomen. Into her hands falls the young tribune Gaius Minervius Valerian and she ponders whether to deal him a slow and painful death or release him to journey back to Rome in shame and ignominy as the sole survivor of the empire's most humiliating defeat for half a millennium. Meanwhile, back in Halicarnassus, Lysandra has become accustomed to easy living and suffered a creeping and insidious addiction to alcohol that, together with her unabated hubris, is sapping both her self esteem and the friendship of those she loves most. But now the Emperor Domitian has called for a command performance at Rome's newly built Flavian Amphitheatre known to history as the Coliseum. Lysandra is invited to fight Rome's adored Gladiatrix Prima, the beautiful and deadly Illeana known as Aesalon Nocturna, the Midnight Falcon. Her record is devastating: thirty bouts; thirty wins- no draws or losses. Lysandra has to face up to all that she is and all that she must become as all roads lead to Rome.
To be honest I was lucky enough to read the original, Gladiatrix on its original release and boy, what an adventure, but as any reader knows, the first book has to capture, the second book has to consolidate the reader so with a break of three years, it’s a case of what has Russell done to make sure that the reader will return to his brutal Roman Empire?
What occurs within, is a title that benefits from the experience gained from the first, the characters are more rounded with greater depth of strengths and weaknesses which gives the reader a more realistic hero to latch onto. The story has more historical depth with real time events occurring with the Domitian’s Datian War and when blended with a build up to the fight for the crowds of Rome where two indomitable women fight for the right to be the undefeated champion, it’s a title that really pleases from the outset to the last page.
Finally add to this, great pace with lulls to allow the reader to grasp their breath just before being thrust into the madness within and the reader is taken for one hell of a ride in this no holds barred epic story. All in, this was a great read and if Russell has learned this much between the first two books, god help the reader with the next as this has been some scary progression of an almost supernatural ability which lead me to suspect that perhaps Romulus and Remus have a hand in things.