Deep in the bowels of the Coliseum of the mighty Astrolian Empire, the orphan, Sol, is raised by a makeshift family of guards and fellow slaves to become the most famed Gladiator in all the land. Alongside K’nal, his giant Frorian fighting partner, Sol must battle cunning warriors and fantastic beasts to delight the crowd and stay alive. But when an oppressed populace transforms Sol into a revolutionary folk hero, the Empire sends its most ruthless assassin to put an end to the uprising. Sol’s only chance is to do what no slave has ever done: escape from the Coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.
Sol is a very strong character. From birth you have a feeling that this child is meant for greatness. In a way he is simple and unburdened by the complications of the outside world but yet his childhood is rough and holds few comforts. Despite his childlike behavior in some parts, he quickly grows up in others. The violence that he sees and the way he handles them shows a profound resilience.
All of the plot is centered mostly on Sol and the Coliseum but not all of it is. There are other characters you leave and meet along the journey. From the guard Grall to pretty and determined Korra. They all seem to weave together an intricate story that leads towards a fascinating ending. The downside of any action packed, testosterone filled book is the women don’t seem quite right. With the exception of Oci, the old cook, most of the women are faceless or used for sexual pleasure. Despite the author’s best efforts of humanize them through Sol’s perspective, something falls short. The only attempt beyond that is Korra, who has more than one irrational moment but is as close as this book comes to a strong female role.
Now to the bad guys. There are the faceless evils, like the Emperor, and then the ones you get to follow along with. The main ‘evil’ is a sadistic assassin that kills for the Empire and for himself. This is not a guy anyone would ever want to meet – he likes torture and maiming as a pastime. Based on the author’s ability to make me say out loud ‘that’s awful’ I imagine he would be very good as murder mysteries. Particularly those that have chapters from the killer’s perspective! When you are in Lysik’s head, the author paints every scene with exacting clarity – enough to make me cringe.
It starts of simple enough, a child of the Coliseum. For some reason it reminded me vaguely of The Dark Knight Rises and the story of a child born in a pit. Except in this story the child is born in the Coliseum – born a slave. The author begins weaving together different characters that start out centered entirely around Sol. A guard that is like a father and a cook that is somewhere between mother and grandmother. All of that quickly changes when Sol begins his first set of bouts on the Coliseum floor.
The most important part is that the author does an excellent job of doing is making it clear that there are things that Sol can’t understand. Things that you have to be free to understand or know about. From his excitement over the weather to when they use trees (or things like trees) in a bout and he gets to feel them against his skin. The strongest part of the plot beyond Sol’s mindset is the action scenes. It seems as though the author took painstaking efforts to make them very clear. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that action scenes are this author’s strength.
Parts of the book are clearly more violence and terrifying then others. Despite the author’s best effort to keep you guessing until the end, he drops enough hints that if you pay attention you won’t be all that surprised. Actually the most interesting part happens just before the climatic fight scene and the ending. Nothing about this book was all that surprising but the characters more than made up for the predictability of the most of the book. The ending itself is a little rushed and filled with coincidences that seem a little too neat, but the coincidences are acceptable enough to be overlooked.
Despite a few drawbacks this book is a solid piece of literature. The complete world beyond the Coliseum is woven in such a way that a reader isn’t bored with the information. The action scenes are complete and filled with all sorts of battle tactics and creatures. Creatures that seems so natural in their world that you take it as fact. Even some of the other fighters aren’t human and that seems natural as well. The author flawlessly weaves you into the world and sets the characters up within it.
Despite the story itself the ending leaves a feeling of it being incomplete. That only a part of the story is over with. That the Coliseum and Sol’s story within it is a complete story from start to finish but the author weaves such a complete story that beyond the walls that you wonder at else will happen in the Empire. Except for a few glimpses from hearsay and the evil assassin, there isn’t much else and yet the author weaves such a complete world. Which leaves a sort of this sense of a false ending. Like you expect there to be more after this.
The switching of characters is sometimes jarring in the beginning because you aren’t 100% sure whose perspective you are in. This happened multiple times. The author should make it clear right away who it is. The chapters are also really long. Yet most of the chapters are broken into different perspectives or parts so many times you can leave off on section break instead of a chapter break. Normally it is a person pet peeve of mine that authors split chapters up into different perspectives in an attempt to make them longer. However, many of the author’s breaks are a continuation of the conversation or story from another perspective and I, therefore, quickly overlooked it.
This was a solid 4 stars and I liked it. This author has a good grasp on his abilities and I look forward to future books written by him. I would recommend this to other readers based on Sol being such a noble character and the action scenes being very easy to follow. This would have been a 5 star book if it wasn’t for the choppy ending that was the most incongruent part of the book along with the changing perspectives that was confusing more than a few times. The only part that absolutely confounded me was the utter coincidence of the ending – where I actually said ‘well isn’t that convenient’ out loud. There were very few grammatical errors but they seemed to become more frequent towards the end of the book – there was one during an intense scene that disrupted the scene a bit. However, I know the struggle of indie authors all too well and have to say beyond a ‘shs’ for his and ‘othere’ for others there weren’t enough errors to ruin the book by any means.
Where did I get it?
The author sent me a copy in exchange of an honest review.