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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 25 February 2014
I rated this book two out of five stars. I really did enjoy some parts of this book. It wa pleasing in that it met my weakness for a strong feminist character, providing a mass of them. However, the huge lack of backstory for any character other than the main and about three other characters and scattered writing style really detracted from an amazing plot. There were a lot of powerful adjectives, but the constant switching between characters points of view and non-existence of any transition or fluidity between them gets pretty frustrating at times. The power is often more in single words than the actual sentences and it generally reads more as an Ancient Rome enthusiast with a thesaurus than an actual accomplished author. This book is worth a read if you literally have nothing better to do, but not one I would rush to buy.
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Gladiatrix is a well written debut novel from Russell Whitfield which puts an interesting spin on that old staple of 'sword n' sandals'tales, the enslaved Gladiator fighting for honour and freedom, by focusing on female 'Gladiatrices'. It features well conceived and diverse characters, a sense of time and place that does not pander to contemporary expectations brutal action, a fair smattering of sex (mostly of the sapphic kind) and a well worked plot. It holds the attention for most of its not inconsiderable length and is by most measures a good book.

What it didn't do for me however, is prompt much in the way of a warm emotional response. As a book I found it to be like a well designed machine rather than a piece of art; practical, functional & precise but without any real beauty or soul to it.

Partly that is down to the setting. By avoiding any contemporising of the characters and the place they inhabit there is very little that is familiar for a reader to cling on to. The world depicted in Gladiatrix is a brutal one that utterly alien to modern sensibilities. With nothing even vaguely 'modern' with which to associate it also remains a remote and distant one.

It doesn't help that none of the characters on display are particularly likeable people. Even the nominal 'hero' of the piece, Lysandra, with her haughty Spartan manner is someone it is very hard to warm to or cheer for. Credit to Whitfield for trying to create characters of some complexity, but in doing so he has also succeeded in removing the reader's ability to really empathise with any of the individuals on display.

By the end of the book I was interested to find out what happened more out of curiosity than a burning desire for Lysandra to prevail over her enemies. When the book ended on what I found to be something of an ambiguous, anti-climatic and less than satisfying note I found that I didn't feel particularly cheated or disappointed because I really didn't care that much about any of the characters' fates, and that told me exactly how little a connection I had made with this otherwise admirable book.
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Launching a new year with a new writer is always a good thing for me, it's a taster of things to come in a new generation of writers in much the same way that Janus looks forward and backwards at the same time. So I was more than pleasantly surprised when I picked up the novel Gladiatrix. As the name would suggest the principle protagonist (or protagonista) is a female gladiator which were originally seen as a bit of light entertainment. Knowing this did put me on edge to begin with until I started getting into the tale.

The combat which appears within the pages is simply written alongside being short descriptions which allows the reader to envision the fight as it takes place. No complications are thrown in as otherwise it could have easily detracted from the scene and lost the key element that made it so gripping. Its brutal, fast paced and at times short, but then again that's the typical life of a gladiator. With the principle protagonist coming from Spartan stock it's a bit of a giveaway as to the toughness and inherent combat skills that we would come to expect from such and with her freeness of speech it endears her to the reader.

Well written with a touch of wry humour and a number of nods to past masters of writing within the pages it's clearly a novel of love and one that has been painstakingly researched. A great first novel and one that the passion clearly shows through allowing any errors to be ignored by the reader due to the sheer enthusiasm and gusto within. I look forward to reading future novels from this author.
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VINE VOICEon 4 July 2009
We all know about the gladiators of ancient Rome. Slaves who found a kind of freedom because of the adulation of the crowds for whom they fought, often to the death. However, this historical novel focuses on the female gladiators or gladiatrices.

Lysandra is a Spartan prietess (think of the 300) who is sold into slavery when washed up on a beach following a shipwreck. She is an arrogant, detached person, who views anyone who is not Spartan as practically barbarian. But she has been trained since childhood in the arts of war, a fact not lost on her new owner.

She is sent to training camp for gladiatrices, where her attitude sets her apart from the others. Her unwillingness to submit to slavery drives her and ultimately depresses her. I just could not warm to the character of Lysandra. She appears cold, aloof and without sympathy for those around her. Even when she loses her lover, it's hard to be sympathetic.

The novel is packed full of activity - from graphic scenes of fights in the areans to emotional outbursts between the main characters. There's a definite lesbian hint to this novel - it's full of strong, independant women who can fight. It's got plenty of historical detail but ultimately, it's devoid of emotion and the ending is so abrupt and anti-climatic that you'll wonder where the rest of the book went.
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on 15 October 2014
I was looking forward to reading this book and sorry to say it was a bit of a disappointment. It felt like the book was written in a rush where the author couldn't wait to finish a chapter and then move on to the next one resulting in a lack of background detail to the characters and story. Some parts were enjoyable but would have liked to see the story beefed out a bit so one could feel more related to the characters. Perhaps the author should read some George R.R. Martin to see how it is done
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on 21 January 2016
This won' be long wordy review. It really is quick to say Just Read It!!! It is a great departure from always reading about the male Rome. It is an excellent book, very exciting, will get you turning the pages. Well researched and extremely human characters. Great book and we'll worth a read.
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VINE VOICEon 5 March 2010
This is almost a guilty pleasure- it's exceedingly violent and contains some truly horrific scenes but it is, unquestionably, a good read. I love the lesbian relationship, its nice to find an author who doesn't simply gloss over feasible aspects of history, its exceedingly likely that such lesbian relations did occur. Personally, I'd love to see a sand & sandal historical fiction novel with a gay male character. I think the book probably was overly long and it dragged in some places, notably the whole bit with the temple retreat but other than that it really is fantastic. My only really gripe is that the two ladies didn't walk off into the sunset together but I guess really, in the name of realism, that wasn't ever going to happen.
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on 3 July 2016
I enjoyed this book - it had an interesting lead female character. As others have said she wasn't easy to like, but for me that was a plus as I find it annoying having lead characters that are too often the darling of their creator and gifted with so many wonderful talents that I end up hating them. I didn't like the ending - it was too vague, but the story kept me hooked so it deserves 4 stars
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on 2 June 2011
This book was very easy reading ( I read it in one day) and while it seemed like a good idea the final story was a bit of a disappointment.
Some of the characters were shallowly drawn and there were numerous historical inaccuracies.
I realise that it is a novel and not a textbook of the Roman world , but really ! Welsh and Romanian gladiators speaking the same language and Celts banding together to defeat Romans!. One of the main reasons that the Romans were able to build such an enormous empire was that the tribes indigenous to northern Europe were completely unable to form alliances and fight off the legions together. If they had been able to put aside their differences then the Roman empire might never have existed and the world might be a very different place today.
Anyway, back to the book, the gladiatrix of the title is Lysandra. She is a very arrogant Spartan indeed and quite difficult to like. And I do prefer to have a sympathetic heroine.
The ending seemed very rushed and a little bit of a cop out.
Also the book had an element of 'Dead Meat' syndrome i.e. you know which women were going to lose each fight when they were described as being nice normal people with everything to live for. So it was a little predictable reading the scenes set in the arena.
On the whole though I enjoyed the book, I enjoy reading about strong female characters, none of the women in this book would have made good Bond girls and I count that a definite plus. The sex scenes were fairly well written , though there was a rape scene that was a little too graphic for me
To conclude, I'm not sorry I read it, but I'll be searching the charity shops for the next book by this author rather than pre-ordering it new.
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on 1 July 2016
I accidently bought the third book in the trilogy in paperback so bought the others on Kindle. Fantastic writing with strong plot developments. Nice to have a change from the standard stories from this era. This was my favourite of the trilogy
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