The Valiant – Lesley Livingston (Review)

Title: The Valiant (The Valiant #1)
Author: Lesley Livingston
Publisher: Razorbill, 2017 (February 14)
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Historical Fiction

This review can be found on my BlogTeacherofYA’s Tumblr, or my Goodreads page

My Review:

Ok. So first I want to show the cover, like I always do, because it is pretty amazing. 


I mean, its stunningly simple: a girl, on the battlefield, dressed as a gladiator. Makes you want to read the book. And the fact that it was also listed in fantasy really piqued my interest. I saw it become available to request on Overdrive and I clicked that “hold” button. 

I was disappointed to learn that the only “fantasy” involved is the possible idea of female gladiators, of gladiatrix, in Ancient Rome. Cool concept, but mainly this book (to me) is more in the historical fiction category. Nothing wrong with that…I love good historical fiction. 

This was…ok. It was simply ok. I saw the twists coming a mile away, but that’s me. I love the idea of female gladiators, but the main character…well, let’s just say she flip flops more than pancakes. (Heh heh my own stupid made up joke).

But I digress…here’s my blurb:


Fallon is the daughter of a Celtic king, so she’s a princess. She misses her sister Sorcha deeply after she went to Rome to rescue her father and died in battle. (This story takes place during the historical period of time when Caesar was conquering the world and had come back from battle after years away – I fortunately watched the movie with Jeremy Sisto on the Ides of March so I was familiar with this part of history) 

Fallon is excited because she’s to be announced as a warrior in her father’s army, just like her sister before her. She loves Mael, a warrior too, and he wants to get married, but Fallon wants to wait until after her appointment. When her father makes a stunning announcement, Fallon’s world is shattered.

She is NOT to be a warrior. And oh, btw, she’s to marry Mael’s brother, Aeddan. Nice, huh? (Thanks, dad!)

When Fallon throws off the jewels that mark her a princess and runs to the river, she gets lost in her haste. There she is blugeoned and captured – by the worst vermin ever – slavers.

Love the platforms on the first one: very believable

Fallon is whisked across the ocean to Rome.

It no longer matters she is a princess from Prydain (or Brittania as the Romans call it), because she is now a slave. After seeing her sword, the slave trader sells her to a school for female gladiators. Fallon gets her wish to be a warrior…just in the stadium instead of the battlefield. But Fallon finds no honor in it. 

While Fallon is haunted by her past, her future looks grim: she must fight, she must win. She belongs to the academy that purchased her. A mysterious woman called Lady Achillea, the woman who purchased her, watches her fight. A Roman soldier, Cauis Varro, seems particularly interested in Fallon. And the girls at the school seem envious – someone leaves omens in her room while she is away, like a bloody crow feather. 

She longs for escape, but where would she go? Back to an arranged marriage with a man she despises? At least here she can fight. 

At least in Rome, she can be Valiant.


Is It Classroom-Appropriate?

Actually, yes. This book is rich with history, no matter if female gladiators were real or not. It reminds me of the liberties taken by Michael Grant in Front Lines, where he writes about WWII but includes women as soldiers. The history rings true, if a little grotesque at times. This would be an excellent book during a unit on Roman history. It could be used in an English or History class, or it could be tied in as a joint unit. The book has endless possibilities in this aspect. 

So for its cultural and historical content, I give this book:


I would use it in my own classroom if it suited my purposes. It’s a great choice for the subject matter.

Age Range

Despite the book’s popularity, it isn’t listed on Lexile. Go figure. So I’ll have to use my judgement yet again. 

There’s some swearing: “Cantii bitch” is frequently used as a derogatory term for Fallon. That’s the worst word. There are whorehouses but no graphic sex scenes. Everything is implied. There is violence: that’s expected in a book about gladiators and Ancient Rome….the place wasn’t pretty. However, these are all things learned in a regular history class addressing the period. So while I would t give the book to a MG audience, I would find it acceptable for 15 and up. Definitely don’t be afraid to give this to a teen reader…they aren’t as naive as we’d like to think. Fortunately though, it isn’t overly vulgar – it’s vulgar for a purpose. Educational vulgarity, I guess I would call it. 


End Result

I couldn’t connect to Fallon. I just couldn’t. Maybe it’s because of her desire to be a warrior but her inability to grasp what that means…I don’t know.  

The book was predicatable for me…oh, here’s a twist, but I say it coming. Here’s anyone’s twist: I’m somehow not surprised. I don’t know if I’m seeing less originality in these big pub books after reading more independent titles, but The Valiant did nothing for me. It wasn’t good; it wasn’t bad. I didn’t really care for Fallon because I couldn’t connect. I never felt she was ever in real peril. I never felt like I was concerned about her. I actually cared more about her Varni friend than I did about her. And that’s unfortunate when reading.

I hate to do this, especially seeing so many of my blogger friends give this book glowing reviews, but I give The Valiant ★★★☆☆, or in my rating scale…


Once again, the book was readable. I’ll probably forget it after some time goes by, though. And that is a sad sign for me with a book. Read it, don’t read it…it honestly won’t matter in the long run in my opinion. 

So, whatcha reading now? I’m about to reach for a smaller title again…I’ve had good luck in that dept.

Don’t forget about my giveaway, which ends on FRIDAY!! Two signed copies of Heir of Illaria up for grabs!!

Here’s the link if you haven’t entered yet (US Only): A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Have a great day, my blogger bunnies! 

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87 thoughts on “The Valiant – Lesley Livingston (Review)

  1. Christy Luis

    Oh drat! I was hoping you’d love this one, but you’re totally right about it being predictable. A lot of historical fiction really struggles in that area, unfortunately 😔 (It also struggles bringing characters alive, for that matter. Historical is so focused on bringing the period alive, the character voice often seems to suffer.) But I’m glad you found a Dumbledore-approved classroom read at least! Agreed, it could be of real use for studying the historical period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it definitely it useful for the classroom! It does have a benefit!
      I do like historical fiction: I loved The Heretic’s Daughter and The Joy Luck Club.
      Unfortunately I couldn’t connect to Fallon. But it’s not a bad read. Just meh for me, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Christy Luis

        I hate it when that happens 😦 But I hope you really super enjoy your next indie read to make up for a meh experience here! Great review!

        Btw, your observation about the big pubs verses smaller is so interesting because I’ve found similar things to be true for myself; often, I don’t enjoy an author’s most popular works as much as their more neglected works. Wierd, right!? Maybe when authors cater to a narrower market it allows them the freedom to be weirdly awesome. Or something 😀 Anyway good luck with your next one!!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I think you’re right!
      Thanks: I’m glad you like my review. Makes me smile every time.
      This new one seems to be a little harder to get into…I’ll give it a little more time but otherwise I have too many books to read and it’s been calculated that even if you read 82 books a year, in 40 years you’ll only have read 4000+something (I don’t remember the number but it was smaller than I would have liked)…so every book we read is precious with more and more released and less time!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had been thinking about adding this book to my TBR – the cover drew me in as well – but after reading what you thought about it I might give it a miss. There are too many other great things to read right now to spend time reading mediocre books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly my thinking! You’ll have better reads more worth your time. I almost passed on it but it was available so I went for it.
      It’s up to you of course but I don’t think it’s worth the time. 🤔😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s good for the history. I watched that Julius Caesar movie from the Ides of March post you had: I sat there and watched the whole thing. So I knew the history and that was cool. You know, the parallels were fascinating.
      I just didn’t find it to be a stand out novel. However, there is a sequel coming so maybe if they keep the story going it might be more interesting? At least for me, lol.
      Others like it, though,
      So you might love it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ryann the Reader

    I had the same issue; this book was just “meh” for me. I felt that all the parts I wanted to read (Fallon’s fights, her learning what it means to be a warrior, her winning over the mob etc) were barely touched on, which made it difficult for me to connect with her as a gladiatrix. On the flip side, all the things I didn’t really care about (the drama with the other gladiatrices, namely) seemed to go on forever, which just distanced me even further from the characters. But the idea of it seemed original and kept me reading to the end, so I didn’t dislike the book, but I don’t think it lived up to all the hype.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You nailed it. That’s the thing with hyped books: they aren’t ever as good as the hype. I honestly thought I would like this one. And it was ok. It kept me reading too. But it’s not hard for me to keep reading anyway, lol.
      Glad you agree. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The girl in the platforms had me dyinnnn of laughter in my cubicle HAHA! I rated The Valiant a 3.75 stars and It was after much internal struggle & a bit of ranting to Gretchen lol. If I look back now it was more of a 3.5 maybe even a 3 for me smh. It was very meh but I am a HUGE history buff & really wanna see more in Historical Fiction in YA. You are very right about the lack of a Fantasy element lol, it is def Hist. Fic. which I didn’t mind but should’ve been labeled Fantasy. I def do believe that what saved this book for me was the last portion cuz the first half of it really had me struggling. Great review though, it captured my struggle lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you and I agree on this one. And your thoughts are so similar to my own. It wasn’t hard for me but it wasn’t very exciting. I did like the history and you and I both like historical fiction apparently. Yeah, the fantasy label threw me off!
      I’m glad I’m not alone bc many people have ranted about how great this one is. I’m not usually picky, so I was surprised with my feelings toward it, but I have already forgotten most of it,
      There was a quote I liked and wanted to share, but the library took the book back and I can’t access it anymore: that was the only downer for me.
      Thanks for reading my review! ❤️❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are def not alone on this one, i’m only reading the sequel because the ending saved it for me. I also want to see if it improves but if book 2 falls flat, that’s where it will end for me. It wasn’t very memorable *shoulder shrug* LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Same with me, I’ll read the sequel. But only bc I’m hoping this book was just laying the groundwork and it will get better. I kinda think it doesn’t need a sequel as it ended without the need really, but if they want to add and make it better, I’m always for that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Omgahhhh yes Stephanie! I also thought the same, it doesn’t need a sequel! 😂 but now I’m curious to see whether it’s an improvement or if it flatlines. Guess we’ll find out 😄💕

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. If you’re looking for fantasy, skip this one. But if you’re a fan of some historical fiction, it’s not a bad read, and it does keep your attention.
      I def think that I’ll read the sequel, but I’m sure I’ll not be having it high on my TBR…too many books need my time!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great Review! We both have same thoughts on this book! I was quite disappointed with this book because it is one of my anticipating reads and the premise sounded very intriguing. It’s too bad there aren’t any fantasy elements except for that weird cult thing which definitely not comes under fantasy. The romance was pretty dull and the heroine was okay-ish nothing impressive but I really liked her friend Elka. The only aspects that I liked in this book is the whole female gladiator concept and the world building. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You sound exactly how I feel! Elka was awesome. The romance could’ve been better. I think this could work if it’s just the groundwork for the sequel (much like Gilded Cage), but for now, it’s another “meh” book in a world of “meh” books lately.
      I’m reading an indie now called Black Dawn. Sometimes it seems the indie books are better than the big pubs anymore…it’s just a shame. So formulaic without even being obvious, you know? Just the same thing in different settings because it “works.” Sigh. 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m looking forward to read Gilded Cage.I finished Black Dawn! It was an interesting read but I didn’t loved it as much as I expected to. I had issues with the romance and also the super fast pacing but I really hope you enjoy it more than I did. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Well. It’s never a good sign when I’m falling asleep reading…so I’m a little concerned. I am not liking the multiple POVs by some authors lately.
      I hope you like Gilded Cage better than I did. I had similar probs with that book, too. Very slow…but at least The Valiant had better world building to me. But then again, there’s also going to be a sequel for Gilded Cage.
      The one I’m looking forward to is The Dazzling Heights, the sequel to The Thousandth Floor. And Ever the Brave, the sequel to Ever the Hunted. I got the ecopy from Edelweiss already, but man I would love a physical galley. I still don’t know how to request those the best way. 🤷‍♀️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t heard of The Thousandth Floor but it definitely sounds like something exciting so i’ll definitely check it out. I haven’t read Ever the Hunted mostly because of the negative and 2 star reviews. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the sequel! Happy reading! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Fab review as always ❤ Why do you think that this is popping up in the "fantasy" genre? Are there even any fantasy elements present at all? From all reviews I have read this is straight historical fiction unless something is completely flying over my head? Curious as to how the book is being marketed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      I think that the female gladiators, or “gladiatrix,” is what is causing the marketing in fantasy. Since there were no gladiatrix in Ancient Rome (it’s speculation but unproven), they must have figured that it’s alternate history and therefore fantasy. I disagree. Front Lines was the same way: female soldiers in WWII weren’t real, but that doesn’t mean it’s fantasy. As a matter of fact, it’s more likely that female gladiators existed than women fighting in WWII…but I don’t know if Grant’s book is designated as fantasy like this one. I should look now. Lol.
      If you’re into Ancient Rome, and like books set in that timeframe, it might be an interesting book…but then again I knew enough that nothing surprised me.
      I think there’s a literary definition of fantasy and I wouldn’t consider this to fall into that category. Same with Long May She Reign…but that one at least wasn’t set in our world. So I guess the argument can be made. I think ppl use fantasy as too broad of a term sometimes: a blanket explanation for anything different than what we know. And I think that can get confusing for us real fantasy fans.
      I guess I’m an “epic fantasy” fan…there’s also “urban fantasy” now too. So many types anymore!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha. They definitely tend to toss the word fantasy around loosely of late.

        A gladiatrix would still be historical “fiction” though from my understanding. You know exactly what I mean 😉

        If you tell me it is fantasy then it better have magical elements 😛 It still sounds like an interesting read though.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alyssa!
      It’s not bad: I’ll be reading the sequel to see if there’s more to the story of course. I just don’t know why it falls under that category at all. Then again, I guess Goodreads isn’t always “accurate” on their categories, lol.
      I think I’ll read other books by Livingston though. I’m glad you met her and it’s harder when you meet an author whose book isn’t for you, so I’m glad you liked it!! 😊😊😊
      Really glad you stop by bc I love your reviews! 😘❤️

      Like

    1. I do, too. I’ve already forgotten a lot of details about this book already; that’s never a good sign.
      A lot of ppl are saying they loved this, but a lot of others agree with me. This one is just a love it or leave it, but so far no one has hated it at least! 🤔😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I didn’t have much interest in this before reading your review (probably because I never read the blurb lol) but now I kind of want to read it. I love Ancient Rome. We did this whole big unit on it in my Humanities class and it was my favorite. That sucks that you didn’t connect with the main character though and that it ultimately wasn’t a memorable read. If I do end up reading it I will definitely have to keep that in mind and go in with low expectations. Great review as always, Stephanie!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you always, Melissa!
      I do see LOTS OF POTENTIAL for this as a classroom read, though. It’s funny how I can feel meh about it, but it’s rich with history. It would make an excellent Humanties Unit book. Bringing more contemporary reads that connect with history is key: I’m sure you would be way more interested in learning about Ancient Rome from the POV of a gladiator-slave girl! I know I would.
      So, if you read for the history, I think you’ll enjoy it…but if you’re looking for something fresh and new, this one isn’t it in my opinion. Definitely a creative angle, but still the same story told, you know?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome!! 💕
        Too bad it wasn’t out when I took my Humanities class because we had to do this long paper on aspects of art and stories that are still seen in works today. I so would have done something from Ancient Rome and used this book. 🙈
        Sucks that it ended up not really sticking out aside from the creative take on female gladiators though. Seems like it could have had the potential too.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. It did have a lot of potential. Well, there is a sequel coming, so I won’t write it off just yet, but it was a little predictable to me. It feels like there’s just too many out there that have become formulaic. It’s unfortunate. I have just finished Black Dawn and that was more interesting than this one…another indie blows a big pub out of the water!
      But when it comes to using books for the classroom, it doesn’t matter if it’s formulaic. If anything, that helps when discussing story elements.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You always make me wish I read more indie books! For some reason, I’ve yet to come across one myself or be asked to review one that catches my interest. Most of the review requests I get are for books specifically on the ‘Will Not Accept’ part of my review policy. 😶 Though I get plenty of recs from your reviews and probably need to try to get around to a few this year. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

    3. You won’t regret it! I do get some like that too…sometimes I just won’t respond, and sometimes I’ll say it’s just not my genre. Most of the time I get straight fantasy and science fiction requests, but I did get one for horror the other day, and I just couldn’t do it. I’m not a horror fan.
      But any indie book I’ve reviewed with four stars or more is worth a read…though The Enemy Within seems to be a toss-up to some ppl bc of its fast pacing. I think you should try Look to the Stars!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey, blogging bunny friend! I went to a mall and there was this Easter exhibition AND THERE WERE BUNNIES. SMOL BUNNIES.

    Great review of this one, Stephanie. I am really hoping to read this one even though there isn’t much fantasy in it!

    Like

  9. Oh it’s a shame you didn’t enjoy this on Stephanie. Yours is actually the first review I’ve seen for The Valiant so I haven’t really seen any glowing ones yet. It sounds like a really interesting book, and I do enjoy historical fiction that goes back to the time of the ancient Romans/ancient Greeks/ancient wherevers, but I’m not a fan of books where I can’t connect to the main character. I had that with a recent book I read and no matter how amazing the plot and world-building was it wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of character development.
    Still great review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      I had seen a couple of meh reviews but some people never give out more than three stars on almost every book they read! This was hard for me bc it has great class potential (hence the five Dumbledores), but it wasn’t to me a phenomenal novel.
      I love historical fiction too. This was historical fiction but GR put it in Fantasy too and it threw me off.
      Fallon isn’t very relatable. But the book is filled with the interesting aspects of Ancient Rome: I’m hoping it’s like Gilded Cage and the sequel will suck me in and this one was just laying the groundwork.
      At least I hope that’s what was going on!! 😂😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right, I guess there are some people who tend to rate books more critically than others so. I’m one of those people who rarely gives ratings lower than three/four stars! 🙂
        I don’t think I’ve read many historical fictions books that were also fantasy ones but it’s something I’d be willing to give a try and they’re two amazing genres!
        Well yeah here’s hoping, I guess you’re planning on picking up the sequel then? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yeah, I can’t deny a sequel you know! I’m always looking to see what else can come from something…I’ll even read the sequel to Stealing Snow! (I’m really normally less judgy about books. So that means I really couldn’t get into it…but others have loved it).

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Yes, but she left the group. She very publicly (on Twitter) questioned my follower count when I was celebrating a milestone. She’s done that stuff a lot lately, and I was just done. Really negative person…and it was so embarrassing. She even posted an apology on my blog in my comments (instead of emailing me), and said she was sorry for being wrong about the count, not about embarrassing me for the thousandth time.
      So yes, we have our group and we have fresh blood. We are on book three now!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh that sucks that someone would do that Stephanie. You really don’t need that kind of negativity in your life, no one does really and I had a issue with an old friend of mine for the same reason (the negativity, not the blog angle to it though)
        Oh that’s good to hear, are you enjoying the series so far then? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    4. Oh definitely! I get to read it from a whole new perspective and it’s great! And I found the series ePub online for free so I have all the books now. I am loving having the whole month to read it so I can read other books too.
      I’m sad but not sad. Life has become so much less stressful now. It surprised me how much she was stressing me out. I’m still a little sad and maybe after some time we can heal things. But for now I think this is good and I’m all about positive energy. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That does sound great, and also getting all the books for free is good too because books can be so expensive sometimes can’t they?
        Yeah it can be surprising how light you feel getting rid of a negative influence on your life. Well hopefully you’ll be able to work something out in the future, but only if it’s right for you as well! 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    5. Totally! And I forgot to tell you bc I forget that you’re not on Twitter: I got a PT job at my local indie bookstore! I love it! Surrounded by books all day is a dream and will help with extra income.
      I wish you were part of our HP reread.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great review, Stephanie! It really does have a great cover. I agree. I definitely would categorize this as YA historical fiction, not fantasy. I did love this book, but that’s probably because I ADORE historical fiction, especially Roman historical fiction. I hadn’t thought about this from a classroom perspective, but it really would be a great to discuss in school. Yay for five Dumbledores!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, it’s a great book for school! I finally found a book that’s perfect for the classroom and I could use my new rating system!
      For me, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. I’m sure the fantasy designation on some of these books is really pissing me off. Goodreads shelves are so confusing! They only list the top ones, and usually they get it right…but every once in awhile a large group of people will classify something wrong.
      I do look forward to the sequel to see what happens next, though!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It is really interesting to me that people would categorize this as fantasy. I don’t understand that one at all. I wish the genre tags on Goodreads were only listed by the publisher. They can be very misleading. I wonder if they categorized it without reading it first?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. The only reasoning I can see for their choice is that female gladiators were not established as fact…other than that, I have no idea. But you’re right: the categories should come from the pub, or in indie cases, the author. Ppl can shelve however they like, but it screws me up when ppl shelve incorrectly enough to where GR recommends it as a shelf…I just don’t get it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Even with that, that wouldn’t make it fantasy in my opinion. That’s nothing more than fiction, so that’s extremely confusing. It definitely sets you up with false impressions going into the book. And there’s only so much time to spend researching a book when your TBR list is SOOOO long.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. I know! It bugs the shit out of me. I don’t even think Long May She Reign should be under fantasy, but it’s more fantasy than Valiant. At least in LMSR, there’s a princess. But there’s no magic. No fantastical elements. And that’s def the case in Valiant. Idk, bc Amazon’c categories are awful too: they don’t always put a book in YA when it’s YA, and a lot of time a fantasy book could be listed as a “coming of age” or a “survival story.”
      Which makes no sense to me. Maybe bc there are so many categories available but I just don’t know. I’ll be changing its status on my shelf!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. AWWW! Well, if there’s one thing worse than a badly executed fantasy it’s a predictable one! I was really looking forward to this one (and will probably still try getting my hands on a copy because it does seem like a cool historical book to read) but thanks so much for your super honest review!
    I probably won’t go into it expecting that much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s all I suggest: just have lower expectations. It really wasn’t bad. It just is forgettable. I’ve already forgotten a lot of the book…all that sticks out are the names (those were memorable).
      I think MY OWN EXPECTATIONS were too high. I hate it when that happens! 🙄

      Like

  12. Oh, I’m dropping it from my TBR. No point in reading it if it’s predictable and barely OK. I trust your opinions enough to know that I won’t like it. Thank you for the review xx

    Liked by 1 person

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