Lesley Livingston brings readers an action-packed sequel to her debut novel, The Valiant, with The Defiant picking up shortly after the events of its predecessor, once again giving readers insight into the gladiatrices’ world through Fallon’s eyes.
Fallon was warned. Now she is about to pay the price for winning the love of the Roman people as Caesar’s victorious gladiatrix. Fallon thought she’d won her freedom, but choosing to stay comes at a cost. She and her warrior sisters are thrust into a vicious conflict with a rival gladiator academy. In the middle of the night, the Ludus Achillea falls under siege and only Fallon and a lucky few are able to flee. Together, they embark on a mission to take back the home Fallon has fought so hard for, and to free their fellow gladiatrices. But dark conspiracies and vicious power struggles confront Fallon at every turn, threatening not just her honor and her love for Roman soldier Cai, but the very heart of the ancient Roman empire. On the journey that will define her future, the only people who might possibly help the girl known as Victrix and her sisters are a tribe of long-forgotten mythic Amazon warriors. The only trouble is, they might just kill her first.
After reading The Valiant and quite enjoying it, I was excited for The Defiant, though unsure where Livingston would take the story from where it had ended. The Defiant takes a more political approach, giving readers a broader view of the society Fallon and her fellow gladiatrices have found themselves thrust into. This being said, the tone of the book is certainly much slower paced than its predecessor, lined with political intrigue, simmering romance, and fierce females.
The Defiant hasless of the nail-biting arena scenes that lined the pages of The Valiant, (although they are obviously still included and well-written). But The Defiant was less a tale of a Fallon’s rise to fame as a powerful gladiatrix, and more a tale of the political intricacies and the horrific lengths people will go to doing things that they think will bring them power. The political side of this novel delves into the rebellion that is brewing against Caesar, which quickly finds reason to blame Fallon, her sister , and the rest of their crew of gladiatrices for actions against Caesar and Cleopatra. Fallon then finds herself desperate to prove their innocence, and along with Cai and his friends, begins to unravel a web of political schemes and dangerous secrets that stretch far beyond their imagining.
I also really enjoyed the romance between Fallon and Cai. Not because it was overly lustful, but because their relationship really strengthened and grew along with them, instead of becoming something toxic and demanding (as relationships often do in YA Fiction). As a reader, I genuinely like both characters (honestly, Cai is one of my favourite character in the books) and I appreciated how Livingston didn’t drive a wedge between them for some cheap tension – instead highlighting both Fallon and Cai became much stronger characters throughout this book, and fought for themselves and each other.
Finally, the real strength of this book isn’t Livingston’s ability to weave political drama into an action-packed tale, or her ability to create a realistic and powerful teen romance, but instead in the heart of Livingstone’s story – her fierce, independent female warriors. Fallon herself is a Celtic warrior princess, but surrounding her is a cast of powerful females, including gladiatrices from all walks of life, the Amazonian women, and Cleopatra herself.
Overall, The Defiant by Lesley Livingston is exactly what it set out to be – a carefully written tale of political schemes and dangerous secrets, of romance and friendship, and of embracing one’s own strengths and power (4/5).