Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gladiatrix - Russell Whitfield

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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