Royalty has always fascinated me and it’s a theme that is explored in a lot of young adult books. These books give you glimpse at what it might be like to be born into that life or be one of the people around them.
The Valiant (The Valiant, #1) by Lesley Livingston
At the height of the Roman Empire, Fallon is the daughter of a king, living outside Roman rule until an impulsive decision leads to her capture. She loses her home, her father and the man she loves in one day. Fallon is taken to Rome and sold to the Ludus Achillea, a training ground for female gladiators. She knows her only way out is to earn her freedom in the arena or die trying.
I have always loved Roman history, so I had to read this book that takes a little known part of that history and builds a story around it. At first, I was rather disappointed. The book started off in such a predictable manner that I almost stopped reading it because it felt like a cliché. I’m glad I didn’t stop reading because it ended up being a really good book. The second half of the book more than makes up for the first. Fallon comes off in the beginning as a lovesick girl who wants to prove herself to her father and is mad when she doesn’t get what she wants. Once she arrives in Rome, Fallon’s character becomes far more interesting and fun to read. Her personality develops and she becomes someone who seems like she would be fun to hang out with as long as you aren’t against her in the arena.
I give this book 4 stars out of 5.
The Queen’s Rising (The Queen’s Rising, #1) by Rebecca Ross
In the kingdom of Valenia, everyone hopes to be chosen by a patron after mastering their passion in either art, music, dramatics, wit or knowledge. Brienna is no different and she is eventually chosen by a patron and adopted as his daughter. She soon learns he is not who she thought he was and Brienna’s drawn into a an old conflict. Brienna has to choose who she will be loyal to: her blood or her passion.
Brienna is an interesting character as she struggles with the ever-important question of “what do I want to do with my life?” In Valenia this decision is made when people are still just children. To me, this was just crazy because the idea of someone making this huge decision when they are around 10 years old is a lot of pressure. Brienna struggles to nail down which passion she wants to master. As a result she seems a bit whiny, but when think about how I would in her place at that age, I know I would have been so much worse. Her reactions to the events around her make her so relatable and she feels like someone I would have eventually become friends with.
I give this book 5 stars out of 5.
The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1) by Holly Black
Jude was just a child when her parents were murdered and she and her sisters (one her twin) were taken to live in the world of Faerie. She is treated poorly by those around her because she is mortal and the people of Faerie are not. After 10 years of living among people who despise her, Jude wants nothing more than to simply fit in. When she is given an opportunity that could lead to her finding her place in this world, she quickly realizes that nothing goes according to plan.
This book took a little while to get into because Jude annoyed me so much in the beginning. Her personality was built around the events that led to her being in Faerie, but she wasn’t willing to leave and make her own way in the human world. She seemed whiny initially. When some of the characters intentionally humiliate Jude, she suddenly becomes much easier to sympathize with and her desire to fit in made more sense.
One of the villains in this story, Prince Cardan, was a big part of what made me like this book. He’s mean. He’s charming. He’s handsome. He’s a jerk. Cardan’s choices make more sense as you learn more about him throughout the story. His interactions with Jude make the story believable and it just works. Part of what I like about Carden is that he’s unapologetic for his actions. In so many cases, I read stories where someone like him changes with little or no explanation. He stays consistent throughout the book. He’s completely unlikeable, but at least I understand why.
I gave this book 5 stars out of 5.