The Valiant

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Valiant Book Poster Image
Female gladiator brings it in violent, exciting tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Author's note explains the archaeological evidence of female gladiators. Insight into life in ancient Britain, the Roman conquest, and life in ancient Rome.

Positive Messages

Each person has his or her own idea of what freedom is, and it can come in the most unexpected places. What you do is much more important than the praise or fame you get from doing it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fallon is a great model for a strong, fierce, independent fighter on equal footing with anyone and everyone. She's brave, loyal, smart, and thinks on her feet. Every time she falls, she gets back up, straightens herself out, and learns from her mistakes. Her friends are loyal, brave, and supportive. The bad guys act like villains, mostly out of pride and envy.

Violence

Lots of combat and gladiator-type fighting with swords, arrows, spears, and knives. Blood is mentioned a lot as gushing, flowing, spurting. Moderate gore, including brief descriptions of a dead body with a broken neck, a severed hand, swords being run through bodies, and a ritual eating of a human heart. Scariness from tension, peril, creepy atmospheres, and dark omens. Slavery is everywhere: Fallon had slaves as the daughter of a Celtic chief, and she becomes one after being captured. She longs for freedom for herself and her loved ones, but she meets other slaves along the way who seem content with their lot and wouldn't want to change their lives. Violent treatment of slaves isn't shown.

Sex

Occasional passionate kissing and caressing with emotions and mild physical sensations briefly described.

Language

"Bitch," "bastard," "house of whores."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional mention of beer, mead, and wine at social occasions. Fallon drinks wine so she won't be uptight at a party and later learns the wine was drugged with a mild hallucinogen. Sick feelings of a hangover are described. Mention that some people drink wine laced with a poppy-based concoction.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Valiant is about a Celtic princess who becomes a gladiator in ancient Rome after being captured into slavery. There's lots of violence from gladiator bouts and battles using swords, arrows, knives, and spears. Blood's mentioned a lot, and other gore is occasional and briefly described, such as a bone protruding from a severed hand. Fallon is a great role model as a fierce, brave, and smart warrior. Slavery is everywhere in the ancient world and explored briefly in how Fallon thinks about how she treated her own slaves before she was captured and in how some slaves are comfortable, maybe even happy, in their positions. Occasional romance involves passionate kissing and caressing. Strong language is rare and includes "bitch," "bastard," and "house of whores." Wine, mead, and beer appear at parties, and Fallon drinks wine once to relax for a party, learning later that it was laced with a mild hallucinogen, having a nightmarish experience, and being sick the next morning. The author's note mentions that the story is inspired by the real discovery of the grave of a gladiatrix (female gladiator), and that how many there may have been in ancient Rome remains controversial.

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What's the story?

THE VALIANT tells of 17-year-old Fallon, a Celtic warrior princess captured by a Roman slaver and sold to the owner of a gladiator training camp. There, she's to be groomed and trained to fight in Rome's grandest arenas, against all comers, male and female. She'll stop at nothing to escape back to her homeland. But when she learns the shocking truth about the owner of the training camp and strikes a bargain with Julius Caesar himself, she knows her destiny will be either freedom and glory -- or death.

Is it any good?

Author Lesley Livingston has created a compelling heroine and placed her in the vivid backdrops of ancient Britain and Rome. Action and suspense keep The Valiant's pages turning, with a few unexpected twists and turns along the way. Fallon is easy to relate to as she struggles to understand her new reality on the way to emotional maturity. She's also a great role model for strong, fierce women unafraid to lay it all out on the line. Light on the romance, it's best for mature tweens and up who like a healthy mix of swordplay, battle action, intrigue, and historical settings.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Valiant. Is it too much? How realistic is it? Does it help the story or the characters?

  • How is slavery depicted? Does it seem realistic? Do you believe some slaves might have been happy with their lot in life and want to stay in bondage?

  • What makes Fallon a good role model? Are there ways you wish you could be more like her? Does she have any character flaws?

Book details

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For kids who love adventure and historical fiction

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