Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand - C.V. Wyk 3.75 stars

When I saw that Blood and Sand had a Roman setting, and features gladiators, I was all over it. I love stories set in Ancient Rome, and I was intrigued to read this take on the Spartacus legend. While the protagonist had a habit of not acting in her best interests, I found this a solid read.

Attia is a slave from Thrace. Her father’s heir, she was trained to become Queen of the Maedi and to lead her people. Trained in battle skills, her plans for the future come to an abrupt end when the Romans invade and kill her father. She vows vengeance on the Flavians, and she’ll do anything in her power to kill the people who murdered everyone she loved.

I guess I should have expected Attia to be a hot-head. But sometimes common sense is the furthest thing from her thoughts. When she is on the auction block, she immediately cripples her new master’s bodyguard and gives Timeus, the wealthy Roman who just purchased her, a thrashing, I wondered why he didn’t just have her killed. It’s not like he could trust her with his back turned after that, and she permanently damaged his bodyguard. I would think that most Roman slave owners would have had her crucified for that offense, to send a message to their other slaves to never ever think about lifting a hand against them. Especially when Timeus owns a stable of gladiators and he wouldn’t want them to get ideas in their heads. But, that would have brought the book to a premature end, and removed a fun action scene.

Attia is given to Xanthus, Timeus’ prized gladiator. Xanthus, also a slave, is the Champion of Rome. A fierce warrior in the arena, he hates the needless loss of life he’s forced to participate in. Timeus’ other gladiators, all trained and raised with Xanthus, are used to enforce Xanthus’ good behavior. The other gladiators are like brothers to him, and he would never endanger them. Like Attia, Xanthus lives for one thing – revenge against the man responsible for the downfall of his people.

I liked that Attia was such a strong, confident character. I didn’t like when she deliberately placed herself in stupid situations without a really, really good reason for it. I’ll let her slide on helping Xanthus in the battle against Fido’s people, because that scene was the whole point of the book, but when she goes to Timeus’ party for Tycho Flavian despite being told to safeguard her young, helpless charge Rory – not so much. When disaster strikes, she is forced into rescue mode and almost gets both of them killed. If she had just listened to very good advice and stayed out of sight, she would have had a better handle on things when they went completely to hell.

This is a fast-paced novel, with lots of action. I loved the battle scenes, and I especially loved that Attia could more than hold her own, either with or without a weapon. She embraces her ability to skillfully kill opponents, while Xanthus suffers emotionally when he is forced to kill. I found the contrast between them fascinating. Xanthus is no shrinking violet by any stretch of the imagination, but he is just sick to death of all of the pointless bloodshed. He takes no pride in being the Champion of Rome.

The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I am looking forward to Attia’s further adventures.