Thursday, 6 March 2008
‘Gladiatrix’ – Russell Whitfield (Myrmidon Books)
It wasn’t until I saw ‘Gladiator’, for the first time, that I realised women also fought in the arena. I never really paid much attention in history classes and that one must have slipped me by… It didn’t slip Russel Whitfield’s notice though and he’s gone and written a book about it. This is the first historical novel that I’ve reviewed and to be honest I wasn’t sure, at first, if it would fit into the remit of what I’m trying to do with the blog. I picked it up anyway and enjoyed it so much that it definitely gets a mention here.
The plot is simple. Lysandra is a Spartan warrior priestess who has been shipwrecked and sold into slavery as a Gladiatrix, a female gladiator who provides the ‘warm up act’ to the crowd before the main events. It’s a slim hope but the only possible way that Lysandra can regain her freedom is by victory in the arena. Lysandra’s Spartan upbringing will help her survive the arena but she must still contend with the enmity of Sorina, the Gladiatrix Prima, and the brutal Numidian trainer Nastasen…
I really enjoyed reading ‘Gladiatrix’ and I reckon if you’re a fan of historical fiction by authors such as Simon Scarrow and Conn Iggulden then you could do a lot worse than pick this one up for a read. As the title suggests, a lot of the action takes place in the arena and after reading some of the fights I was left feeling almost as bruised as I would have done if I’d been fighting for real! Whitfield isn’t one of those authors who has their characters rushing in waving a sword, there’s evidence of real thought regarding the consequences of each sword thrust and shield block. The fight scenes can sometimes drag on for a bit though, sometimes this serves to increase the tension but at other times it just seems unnecessary (especially if you know that a certain character will win through) and almost cartoonish. The same goes for the ‘romantic sub-plot’ between Lysandra and one of the other gladiatrices, while there were some real poignant moments I’m pretty sure that the sex scenes perhaps didn’t need to be dwelt upon at such great length. It’s cool if you like that kind of thing in your reading but I wanted to find out what happened next!
On the whole though, ‘Gladiatrix’ is an entertaining read that has an air of thorough research about it. Whitfield steers the reader through a series of events in the arena (as well as some hard hitting stuff outside it!) that contrasts well with Lysandra’s journey to reconcile her Spartan upbringing with her new life as a slave. There are plenty of twists and turns and you’re also well advised not to get too attached any particular character; life in the arena is harsh and death is never far away!
If you’ve ever wondered what ‘Gladiator’ would have been like with Angelina Jolie in the main role (surely it’s not just me?) then give ‘Gladiatrix’ a try ;o)
Eight out of Ten