Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand

FORGED IN BATTLE...FROM THE DUST OF THE ARENA...A LEGEND WILL RISEThe action-packed tale of a 17-year-old warrior princess and a handsome gladiator who dared take on the Roman Republic―and gave rise to the legend of Spartacus...For teens who love strong female protagonists in their fantasy and historical fiction, Blood and Sand is a stirring, yet poignant tale of two slave...

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Title:Blood and Sand
Author:C.V. Wyk
Rating:

Blood and Sand Reviews

  • Crazy4Books

    This female reimagining of Spartacus was simply fantastic. I dont think Ive ever read a historical romance, but what an incredible book to start with and a debut at that. Her people massacred and taken from her home Attia is purchased by a Roman as a gift for his gladiator, the Champion of Rome, but more than likely he is using her as a means of controlling him. While keeping her identity as the warrior princess of Thrace a secret, Attia plots her revenge on the people who have taken everything

    This female reimagining of Spartacus was simply fantastic. I dont think Ive ever read a historical romance, but what an incredible book to start with and a debut at that. Her people massacred and taken from her home Attia is purchased by a Roman as a gift for his gladiator, the Champion of Rome, but more than likely he is using her as a means of controlling him. While keeping her identity as the warrior princess of Thrace a secret, Attia plots her revenge on the people who have taken everything from her. Im not usually a big fan of character driven stories, but I loved this one. Definitely the best captive story Ive read and Im really picky when it comes to those types of stories.

    Attia was such badass female character. Breaking bones and not taking crap from anyone right from the beginning. I feel like the romance happened a little fast, but it still made it onto one of my favorite romances of all time. I love romantic interests who are strong, but gentle. Xanthus understands the importance of freedom and doesnt try to keep Attia from making her own decisions. The switch between the two main characters perspectives was a little abrupt at times, but their voices were different enough that I was able to differentiate them easily.

    The side characters were remarkable and distinct from one another. Rory is just adorable and I loved how much Attia cared about her. Attia develops this amazing friendship with Lucretia. Xanthus brother gladiators made me laugh so much when they were fighting at their camp. Their camaderie and love for each other was heartwarming. The compelling writing helped me immerse myself in the story and really get to know these characters. I had my doubts about the mecenaries, but I still really enjoyed that reveal. Some things did feel convenient, but I was enjoying myself so much I didnt really care.

    I loved how the author incorporated Pompeii in her story. I dont read much historical fiction, but I feel like this could have use a tiny bit more Roman elements to make me feel like I was really in that time period. Towards the half way point the pace slowed down a little bit, but the ending crushed me and Im still in denial about it. Im hoping we'll see more of the world and the revenge plot in the sequel. While in the thick of it I thought this would be a 5 star read, but after writing this review I realize that there was just a couple things missing. Id definitely recommend this if you want an amazing gladiator inspired romance.

    *received for review consideration*

  • Alyssa

    4.5 stars. There is a specific reason why this book isn't getting 5 stars from me. 💔😭 I LOVED the story. It was fantastic and I adored the two protagonists.

    But.

    Now I'm sad.

    I'VE CHANGED MY RATING TO 5 STARS DON'T HATE MEEEEEE. After sleeping on it, I feel like that part of the ending isn't going to stick. Aaaaaand there is a sequel so that's a good sign. I'm just hoping and crossing my fingers!!!!

    ***

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    Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk

    Book One of an untitled ser

    4.5 stars. There is a specific reason why this book isn't getting 5 stars from me. 💔😭 I LOVED the story. It was fantastic and I adored the two protagonists.

    But.

    Now I'm sad.

    I'VE CHANGED MY RATING TO 5 STARS DON'T HATE MEEEEEE. After sleeping on it, I feel like that part of the ending isn't going to stick. Aaaaaand there is a sequel so that's a good sign. I'm just hoping and crossing my fingers!!!!

    ***

    ***

    Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk

    Book One of an untitled series

    Publisher: Tor Teen

    Publication Date: January 16, 2018

    Rating: 5 stars

    Source: eARC from NetGalley

    Summary (from Goodreads):

    FORGED IN BATTLE...

    FROM THE DUST OF THE ARENA...

    A LEGEND WILL RISE

    The action-packed tale of a 17-year-old warrior princess and a handsome gladiator who dared take on the Roman Republic―and gave rise to the legend of Spartacus...

    For teens who love strong female protagonists in their fantasy and historical fiction, Blood and Sand is a stirring, yet poignant tale of two slaves who dared take on an empire by talented debut author C. V. Wyk.

    Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire―an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

    Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.

    Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end―and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus...

    What I Liked:

    Oh my oh my oh my. Blood and Sand, what a debut. I have been eagerly awaiting this book for months, likely close to a year, and I was almost too excited to actually read it when I got a review copy. In the last few weeks, I've been in a terrible reading slump, the worst I've experienced in years. But I think Blood and Sand yanked down and pulled me out of the slump. It is easily a favorite of 2018 already, and I will definitely be rereading it in the future.

    This is the fictional story of the rise of Spartacus. Traditionally, Spartacus is known to be a Thracian male warrior, but in this story, Spartacus begins with Attia, the Thracian princess and last of her people. She has been captured and sold to a rich Roman named Timeus, who has gifted her to his Champion of Rome, as a sign of favor. The Champion of Rome, Xanthas, is not what Attia expects; he isn't cruel or forceful, and he's a great deal younger despite his ten years as Champion. Attia should be fighting for every opportunity to escape, to run, to exact her revenge on the man that destroyed her people. But she finds that she cannot leave the Champion, who she finds out is just as much a slave as she is. This is the story of two warriors, brought together under bloody circumstances, but united under the same drive for vengeance.

    One thing that was a delightful surprise was the fact that this book is told in dual narrative! There are two third-person POVs - Attia's, and Xanthas's. I adore dual POV and especially when the two characters are each other's love interests. This story is not Attia's; it's not Xanthas's. It's Attia's and Xanthas's.

    The story starts with Attia being dragged in chains and sold to the highest bidder. From the start, I liked Attia. She is cold and hardened, undefeated even in chains and branded like livestock. She is a Maedi princess and warrior, and she lets her birthright and training stiffen her spine. She never breaks, she never gives up, and she never loses herself. I love how strong she is, even when she isn't in battle. (Which, let's be real, is like 5% of the book. She isn't fighting much in this one, which was fine by me, given how the story is set up.) And in battle, she is fierce and formidable. I really admire Attia, for her strength and willpower, her determination and her persistence.

    Xanthas, I liked just as much or even more. He is the Champion of Rome and has been for years. He has been a gladiator ever since he was a young boy, a slave under the rich man Timeus. He is unbeatable in any arena, against any opponent, or any number of opponents. But he hates how he must kill and how many he must kill. He carries the guilt and pain of every kill, which the author makes very clear, based on his words and actions after a match. He's young, likely around 19 or 20 years old, but he is old beyond his years. He is a good man with a kind heart, despite his warrior status. Not once is he cruel to Attia, or any person (even those he is set against to kill). I really respected and adored Xanthas. Did I mention that he's all sorts of swoony? I mean. Muscles, tall, scruffy facial hair, skills with swords and other weapons, sweet and silent and broody, considerate and thoughtful... he's my type of guy.

    Yes, there is romance, and it's so sweet. Attia is given to Xanthas as his prize, so she's supposed to be his concubine or something of that nature. But he never makes her do anything and for that, she begins to trust and like him. They commiserate (they're both slaves who lost their people to Rome), and they're both warriors. The romance is slow-burn and so sweet, and I loved seeing it unfold. I didn't mind how quickly "love" was thrown around because I could see the passage of time even if it wasn't shown directly on the page. There were so many little tender moments (like forehead kisses!) and other more intense swoony moments, and honestly my heart was so invested and so here for it.

    The romance is really subtle and barely there, so don't think that the story is entirely about the romance. Xanthas, being the Champion of Rome, is constantly in action, and there is a match coming that he can't wait for. He has been waiting his entire gladiator life for it, and he won't let anything get in his way. Attia is healing from terrible wounds she received in the beginning of the book, but that doesn't mean that she is sitting back, waiting for things to happen. No, she is constantly looking for information on the man that slaughtered her people. And looking for ways to get her revenge.

    There are a lot of different parts of the story that change the landscape of the plot, but I won't talk about any of that because that would get into spoiler territory. I will say that the author does such an excellent job with the world-building and history. This is supposed to be loosely based on the story of Spartacus, and of course there are definitely some large inaccuracies present, but I really felt the history of the setting and the characters and the story in general, when reading the book. Based on what I know about ancient Rome, Pompeii, etc., of course.

    I wanted to mention some of the secondary characters! I loved the other five gladiators who train with Xanthas. They are his blood-brothers and fellow warriors-in-arms, and they are hilarious. The six of them are a quite a bunch! I love their antics. I also love how, towards the end, the other five develop a sort of kinship with Attia. There was one scene when they were all standing behind her and I swear my face turned into the heart-eyes emoji.

    For the record, there is nooooooo love triangle in this book. Or anything non-Xanthas/Attia. Just thought I'd mention that. The other five gladiators - and any other males - are not interested in Attia.

    The ending of this book is bananas! On so many different levels! It picks up really quickly and all of a sudden there is an explosion of chaos. I can't even begin to tell you how frantic my brain was working to keep up with everything, because so many bombshells were being dropped. One event in particular is literally the only reason why this book isn't getting five stars from me at this time. Until I know more, that event is sinking this book's rating from me. BUT the ending is wide-open for book two (yes, there is a book two!), which is good! I'm very excited to see where Attia's story goes next, because Spartacus has only just been introduced into the story.

    What I Did Not Like:

    Okay that ONE event is the reason why I waffled with my rating. You'll see what I mean. You all know how I feel about these things. I'm hoping it won't stick, and I have a good feeling that it won't. Cross your fingers!

    Would I Recommend It:

    I highly recommend this book, regardless of if you're a historical fiction fan or not. This book is intense, action-packed, riveting, romantic, and jaw-dropping, in the end. I will say that there is some abuse and suicidal thoughts though not involving Attia or Xanthas (but a secondary character). So be aware of that. But this book is such a powerful one, with a feminist story that isn't loud and obnoxious and over-the-top.

    Rating:

    4.5 stars. I've decided to round up to 5 stars! Despite the really painful part of the ending, I loved this book so much and I have a good feeling about the next book. I am so so so excited about Fire and Ash and need that book in my hands now! Or yesterday! This debut is stunning and powerful, and I need more.

  • Sophie

    For two days I was nose stuck in a book.

    I simply did not want to blog or follow my social feed or...shoking for a blogger I know!

    I just had to follow Attia and Xanthus journey. Was this book the best written book in history? No. It is undoubtedly well wrtitten but more important: it was calling to my heart.

    I used to read many historical fictions as a teen from prehistory

    For two days I was nose stuck in a book.

    I simply did not want to blog or follow my social feed or...shoking for a blogger I know!

    I just had to follow Attia and Xanthus journey. Was this book the best written book in history? No. It is undoubtedly well wrtitten but more important: it was calling to my heart.

    I used to read many historical fictions as a teen from prehistory to ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome, ....

    Blood and Sand reminded me how much I enjoyed these readings.

    For two days I followed a strong and badass heroine.

    Attia is a Thrace princess, heir of king Sparro who's been killed by Crassus. She is now readied to be sold as a slave and

    Attia runs and fights like a demon. An ancient Kill Bill jumping on rooftops, jumping wall to wall to the top, incapacitating soldiers bare handed...you got it:it was riveting!

    Then suddenly, she realized there was nothing left to run to.

    No family, no friends.

    Every single person she had ever known were dead.

    She surrenders ...

    When she arrives to Timeus house it's to be a gift to Rome's champion, gladiator Xhantus.

    Xanthus has been undefeated for long years now. If he is a well honed killing machine he hates taking lives.

    Xanthus is tired. So tired of being a slave and taking lives...

    Attia and Xanthus will bond in their slavery. Helping and caring for each other.

    The book is about survival, keeping your identity and your pride even as a slave. It's about revenge. It's about love and affection the only things worth surviving for.

    The author took liberties with history here but it did not bother me. What I was looking for was the Roman's way of life rather than completely accurate facts and dates.

    Attia is a formidable heroine and Xanthus is a colossal hero you can't but love.

    It ends dramatically but it's only the first book in the series. More is yet to come and I don't know what surprise the author has in store for us.

     

    If you like historical young adult stories built around strong heroes and sustained by a simple yet holes free plot this is your next read.

     

    Thank you Raven for your high praise of the book you made me read it!

     

    Have you read it? Do you love historical books?

    Thanks for reading!

    Sophie

  • lucie

    It's action packed, brutal, bloody and there are gladiators! Who doesn't like gladiators?

    is kick-ass princess who is taken from Thrace and sold as a slave, given as a trophy to Xanthus.

    is the best gladiator of Rome driven by his revenge.

    - The writing was really good and the story was easy to follow. I could

    the scenes quite vivid in my head and this is always a good sign.

    - I

    It's action packed, brutal, bloody and there are gladiators! Who doesn't like gladiators?

    is kick-ass princess who is taken from Thrace and sold as a slave, given as a trophy to Xanthus.

    is the best gladiator of Rome driven by his revenge.

    - The writing was really good and the story was easy to follow. I could

    the scenes quite vivid in my head and this is always a good sign.

    - I absolutely adored Xanthus! He has his heart on the right place, he doesn't enjoy fighting or killing. His story as a young boy made me want to hug him.

    - There's romance between Xanthus and Attia, of course. It wasn't exactly insta-love but they fall in love too quickly for my personal taste. I'd prefer slower relationship building

    it didn't stop me from shipping them. Around middle of the book I cared more about them together than the main story, haha.

    - I cannot forget to mention that

    - I loved the friendship between Xanthus and his gladiator brothers. They were funny and I enjoyed their scenes a lot.

    - The final scene was intense and asdfhadsf!!! WHAT WAS THE ENDING??

    Now excuse me because I am going to binge-watch Spartacus: Blood and Sand while waiting

    for the sequel.

    ***

    Gladiators and strong female protagonist in one book - I feel strong

    vibes so of course I want to read it!

    Buddy-read with

    who reminded me that this book exists!

  • C.G. Drews

    Epic, my man, epic. I actually really like this gender-bending of historical books (like

    !) and I wish for 501 more of them (like someone please make Alexander the Great a woman yessss) and this was so much fun! And also

    . Just in case you thought were all here to have a good time.

    nO.

    We are here to have our fEELS ATTACKED TOO. Dammit.

    (Also the author's

    Epic, my man, epic. I actually really like this gender-bending of historical books (like

    !) and I wish for 501 more of them (like someone please make Alexander the Great a woman yessss) and this was so much fun! And also

    . Just in case you thought were all here to have a good time.

    nO.

    We are here to have our fEELS ATTACKED TOO. Dammit.

    (Also the author's note underlines that this isn't 100% pure historical fiction, I mean, obviously Spartacus is a woman, but also there's some playing around the corners of historical accuracy. But like, if you weren't back chillin' in 79 AD how do you even

    know what went down anyway, hmm?)

    Absolutely a recipe for an epic book or a caesar salad! So exciting! I've read books like this before so it didn't hit me as "new" or anything, but the characters were

    winning and I basically didn't want to put it down. Also it smelled good. I don't know if that counts for a good book, but it should.

    Although it DEFINITELY doesn't shy away from the realer side of Rome. Conquests were not chill. It talks about rape and murder and torture of slaves. The things that'd go on in a rich Roman dude's house were horrible.

    Okay THIS is the kind of epic badass heroine I love to read about! Attia is terrifying, because she's been raised a war princess and is basically the last Thracian. BUT SHE HAS EMOTIONS!! And a heart!! Like this is literally Attia:

    Like she was NOT faking the badass part and when she gets suited up and goes to punch dumb dudes with knives in their faces? Yessss be scared. But she also gets super protective over this little girl AND she warms up to the love interest and it's just like: kNIVES AND HEART EYES.

    Attia is amazing.

    I'm 99% sure he's a huge Hufflepuff because he's SO loyal and also the best gladiator in Rome. AKA he will kill you. Do not mess. But he's so respectful of Attia and even though she's gifted to him as "his slave" he never never presumes anything of their relationship except to help her if he can.

    Just because the book is 300pgs. I mean that's not a lot of time for I-Don't-Have-Feelings-Attia to, ya know, get feelings. Fall for a boy. Decide she will never leave nor forsake him. Ever. Like, girrrrrl you just met. I wouldn't call it instalove because time passed but the book kind of blinked over it. I LIKED them both. Just wasn't sold on them together.

    Wizardry. But not in a bad way, particularly! I definitely enjoyed it and read it in just a few sittings because it kept the pacing up, just sometimes not a lot happened. Attia would just be stewing in her fumes and Xanthus would just be having an identity crisis somewhere else because he's BAD but wants to be GOOD. I swear. He's so freaking precious.

    With a lot of Roman names. Look I have 7 people in my family and I don't even have a clue what their names are half the time. So books with a hUGE cast and very similar names (Lucius, Lebuin, Lecretia???!?!?) actually had me weeping.

    So fear ye not if you're not a history buff (or, like me, just oblivious to apparently really famous dudes in history?!?) because this is still epic, bloody and full of excellently complex characters that'll win you over.

    I loved how powerful and feministic it was, and how Attia also punched back all the guy's horrible quips about her being lesser. This book is empowering and exciting. AND CUTE. Which is ridiculous because, ya know, murdery Rome. But so many cute moments!! Also a few jokes I snickered at.

  • Laura

    This was exactly what I needed after the sequel to

    left me so disappointed.

    is what I wanted. Brutal, bloody and action-packed! I found myself thrilled throughout the fight scenes. I genuinel

    This was exactly what I needed after the sequel to

    left me so disappointed.

    is what I wanted. Brutal, bloody and action-packed! I found myself thrilled throughout the fight scenes. I genuinely enjoyed Attia and Xanthus. And when their relationship ventures into romance territory, I am here for it. Even though it switches quickly, almost insta-love except not. It could've used a bit more development is my main gripe. Other than that, it doesn't even matter because it's not a plot-focus.

    Seventeen year old Attia is taken from Thrace and sold as a slave. She is given to the Champion of Rome, Xanthus, by his master. Xanthus is a slave himself. This is just the beginning. Two slaves with no bigger desire than to get the revenge they've been waiting for. Attia wants the head of the man who killed her father, while Xanthus wants to battle the man who brought Roman troops to his home. The two will form a bond that will change everything.

    The historical accuracy is one of my favorite things. Of course the author had to change some things and the most obvious here being Spartacus as a female, but the things I already knew were accurate were wonderful. I always appreciate the inclusion of actual historical accuracy.

    I did expect Attia to be involved in more action and fight scenes, but for sake of developing the story I'll withhold judgement. I'd expect to see more from her in the sequel. It's odd going into this after

    because they both feature a girl taken and auctioned off as a slave only to be purchased by a ludus master and expected to adjust to life at the ludus. The main differences being that The Valiant goes full female-gladiatrice ludus, while

    is a male-ludus where Attia is slave to one of the gladiators. Xanthus and Attia bond over their shared experiences and fates. This is a Spartacus retelling, so you can guess where it's going to go at a certain point..

    The ending is fantastic. I appreciated the change of location and what that brought with it to the plot. I can't exactly say more or spoilers. There's a nice twist at a certain point. The entire novel is fast-paced. I am really looking forward to seeing where the sequel goes next..

  • Warda

    AND THE AWARD FOR THE BIGGEST SURPRISE READ OF THE YEAR (so far) GOES TO....

    *cue cliched, boring-ass drumroll*

    BLOOD AND SAND BY C. V. WYK! 😍

    Why is this not more hyped?! It needs to be on everyone's TBR pile!

    Give me that damn sequel already!

    Now, that I got my fangirling out of the way, let me actually try and review this.

    Like I said, I wasn't expecting to enjoy this so much. It came as a complete surprise to me and when I read the synopsis, I wasn't sure whether it was going to be my kinda thing

    AND THE AWARD FOR THE BIGGEST SURPRISE READ OF THE YEAR (so far) GOES TO....

    *cue cliched, boring-ass drumroll*

    BLOOD AND SAND BY C. V. WYK! 😍

    Why is this not more hyped?! It needs to be on everyone's TBR pile!

    Give me that damn sequel already!

    Now, that I got my fangirling out of the way, let me actually try and review this.

    Like I said, I wasn't expecting to enjoy this so much. It came as a complete surprise to me and when I read the synopsis, I wasn't sure whether it was going to be my kinda thing.

    Well, it turned out to be exactly my kind of thing.

    Brutal, bloody and incredibly atmospheric, I was immediately swept away by the world and the writing from page one.

    It's a gender-bend story, following Attia (who's just badass in every sense of the word) or Spartacus in this case, when she's been made a slave. Our villain, the antagonist, or as I like to call him the little shit of a bastard, captures her and 'gifts' her to his champion. Rome's hero, the undefeated gladiator that is Xanthus. FYI, he made me swoon on numerous occasions, jeezus.

    Little did that little shit know that putting them together, these two would form a bond under the banner of slavery. And the story takes off from there.

    This book was extremely action-packed, fast-paced and never was there a dull moment. The combat scenes were written so well to the point where I felt like I was a part of it. (Yes, I was fighting away in my head!). Plus I was always eager to get back to it when put down. We were introduced to the characters and world really nicely, the groundwork was laid and it was easy to get lost in the story.

    It is a beautiful fantasy/historical fiction novel on ancient Roman, the tale of Spartacus, gladiators, but also discussing heavier themes such as slavery, injustice, colonisation and fighting for freedom.

    And the way this ended, boy are we in for a gooood time with the sequel. 😍

  • Nadhira Satria

    3.5 STARS

    It was good. but not that good. but still good. but ok I guess.

    But because I haven't read a good historical fiction these days, I'll just round it up to 4 stars

    It's honestly so rare to find a YA historical fiction that is actually HISTORICAL. I mean this book is so historically accurate and just... wow.

    just bravo. yas. you go girl

    The banter of these cute little gladiator puppies and the frien

    3.5 STARS

    It was good. but not that good. but still good. but ok I guess.

    But because I haven't read a good historical fiction these days, I'll just round it up to 4 stars

    It's honestly so rare to find a YA historical fiction that is actually HISTORICAL. I mean this book is so historically accurate and just... wow.

    just bravo. yas. you go girl

    The banter of these cute little gladiator puppies and the friendship they have is just brb i'm tearing up

    (Iduma is my fav btw he's such a little baby)

    I never understood romance where both partners are broken (Feyre and Rhys) (Aelin and Rowan) (Juliette and Warner) (some contemporary book couple because I don't read them lmao)

    Honestly it's so fucking unhealthy??? It's just unbelievably unhealthy both emotionally and mentally to the point where I have to scream whenever this type of shit happens.

    This shit happens all the motherfucking time because apparently some readers think that the idea of two broken people healing each other are cute and romantic and omg *snorts* oh honey, that shit only happens in fiction.

    IM SO FUCKING SICK OF THESE TYPE OF ROMANCE?? ITS UNHEALTHY SO STOP IT. (I wish i can send a fucking power point slide to Sarah J Maas telling her to stop writing these kinds of romance just because it's angsty or whatever. IT'S FUCKING UNHEALTHY, SARAH! STOP)

    Shit happened too quickly too

    bitch ass got a personality of a teaspoon.

    I really liked it (despite the romance issue) ANDDDD I'll be reading the next one when it comes out!

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)

    2 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    Well, that was, unfortunately, not as good as it could have been. Though, if you’re simply hankering for a standard Young Adult novel with a flavor of Ancient Rome, I’m sure this book will serve its purpose. I just wish it hadn’t been so…hokey.

    What do I mean by that? You could feel the intrusive force of the author’s hand, nudging her characters through to the desired storyline every step of the way. None of it felt organi

    2 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    Well, that was, unfortunately, not as good as it could have been. Though, if you’re simply hankering for a standard Young Adult novel with a flavor of Ancient Rome, I’m sure this book will serve its purpose. I just wish it hadn’t been so…hokey.

    What do I mean by that? You could feel the intrusive force of the author’s hand, nudging her characters through to the desired storyline every step of the way. None of it felt organic, from the events that transpired to the relationships between the characters. It sucked all the joy and charm out of what could have been an excellent novel.

    The author begins with a note informing readers that many of the people and events that take place in the story are based on the historical record…except when it suits her needs. Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of historical fiction and I know how it works; I don’t mind the occasional tweak here or there for the sake of making your story work better or more interesting. However, blatant manipulation of dates, say, for the express purpose of ending your novel on an “eruptive” note makes things seem far too contrived, if you know what I mean. This and other developments were “twists” I saw coming a mile away. Like I said, nothing unfolded organically; everything felt scripted.

    Speaking of which, this segues perfectly into how I felt about the characters. The stars of Blood and Sand are Attia, a 17-year-old Thracian princess, and Xanthus, a Briton slave boy who grew to become the mightiest gladiator in Rome. Despite being a girl, Attia was chosen and trained by her father, the Maedi chieftain, to be his heir following the death of his wife and son. If the Romans had known, they would have killed her on the spot when they invaded her land and slaughtered her people, but they were expecting the Maedi heir to be a boy, which led to Attia to be captured and enslaved. In Rome, she was bought by Timeus, the dominus of a gladiatorial school, who wished to gift a beautiful Thracian girl to his best gladiator, Xanthus. Expecting the Champion of Rome to be a cruel violent brute, Attia prepares to fight tooth and nail to escape, only to find that Xanthus is nothing more than a misunderstood and tortured soul, soft-spoken, thoughtful, and gentle as a lamb (sigh…because of course he is). All her reservations about him disappear miraculously overnight. The two of them spend literally one night talking, and suddenly they are madly in love.

    There was nothing to convince me these two had formed any kind of complex or emotional connection beyond sharing a few details in a very strained, orchestrated conversation about their past. Nothing to convince me that Attia would throw away her all-consuming desire for freedom and revenge for the sake of a stranger she’s only known for a short time. This has become a common refrain from me regarding the state of Young Adult romances as of late, but there was simply no spark of chemistry.

    For a novel being pitched as a story about a “female Spartacus”, I was also profoundly disappointed by the lack of action we saw from Attia. We mostly got to see her kick ass in just one pivotal scene in the middle of the book, following a sequence of events that felt awkward and scripted in the manner they came about. Characters appeared to go out of their way to maneuver themselves into that very situation, even if their reasoning made little sense. Most of the supporting cast are also lightly sketched and felt like props for the author to use as she saw fit—namely, to make Attia and Xanthus look good. Xanthus’s gladiator brothers are hardly around except when they’re needed to talk up Attia’s beauty or battle prowess, and characters like Lucrezia and Rory felt written in for the sole purpose of being Attia’s charity cases.

    Finally, this did not feel like a complete book. Early in the story, Xanthus is given the news that he will have an opportunity to face his sworn enemy in the ring, an event that never materialized, so presumably there will be at least one sequel where this will be covered. The novel instead ends with no resolution to any conflict, though to the author’s credit, she did seek to close things out with a spectacular bang—an effort in which she was successful, even if the ending left me with no sense of closure or satisfaction. There are loose ends aplenty, but somehow, I have a feeling I already know how a lot of them will resolve, given how predictable I found this novel.

    Blood and Sand was a book I had high hopes for, and in truth, the first few chapters did make me think that perhaps I held a winner in my hands. With that said, perhaps the source of my frustration lies in the genuine potential for greatness that I glimpsed in this debut, if only it hadn’t been constrained by so many common first-timer mistakes as time wore on. My tepid response notwithstanding, I don’t think this was a bad book, just that it was too contrived for my liking, which killed a lot of my enthusiasm for the story and characters. Still, there’s room to grow with this series, so I’m not writing it off yet, but I’ll probably adopt a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the sequel.

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