I loved this book. Normally, I'm not attracted to novels about the Roman era in Britain; I'm more a Plantagenet and Tudor, girl. But I was encouraged to get involved in this story by its intriguing blurb and Amazon's `Look Inside' feature. I'm glad I did so, as this book has now encouraged me to further explore the Roman world. To say I was astonished to discover that women fought as gladiators in the arena is to put it mildly. Having read this book, I see what barbarians the so-called, civilised Romans really were.
The research involved for this book must have been awesome, but Ms Gruchy resists the temptation to overload the reader. Her descriptions are taut and colourful. She manages, effortlessly, to make sense of an alien world, not in great slabs of information, but subtly interspersed between dialogue and narrative, so, although one absorbs atmosphere, customs, manners, etc, this is achieved in a thoroughly painless way (for which - thank you, Ms Gruchy!).
I felt as one with the poor British woman, sentenced to fight to the death in the area because she had dared to defend herself against the sexual assault of a Roman.
To everyone's surprise, expecially her own, she survived her first, bruising encounters in the arena, gradually learning the trade she had been forced to embrace, fighting prejudice and more attempted sexual assaults along the way.
An unusual story, well told and engaging. The research alone deserves five stars, but the story, rich in everything that a good novel needs, deserves them even more. Very well done.