Former gladiator Saevius is certain fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. But then his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having an affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista.
But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name.
When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray one of his masters: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and both of whom could have him killed without repercussion. For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena.
Overall Rating: 1/10 stars
Leigh’s Review: 1/5 Stars
If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be “meh.”
It’s written from the cis character’s POV, and it includes a few tropes that I’m sick of seeing in trans stories—shitty family, bullies, and the nudity/clothing change “surprise” forced-outing. If you go into this book not realizing there’s a trans character in it, the coming out scene would be a tasteless “plot twist.” There are vague hints dropped here and there that Drusus might be trans, but they aren’t blatant enough to forgive the obvious “shock factor” of the coming out. It’s one thing to shock the other characters, but to attempt to shock the reader is crap.
At least the cis MC handles it well, without falling into any of that gross “omg can I be near a vagina?!” crap you sometimes see, but still… frustrating.
Apart from that, this book was just kind of… a book. I have no feelings about it in any direction. It diverted my attention briefly during a layover at the airport, and that’s it. It feels like a book. The events didn’t seem to flow naturally. They had to keep being pushed along by narrative. The characters are two-dimensional and I felt nothing for them. The story didn’t pull me in, and I called every single “plot twist” from a mile away. The romance was shallow and unlikely in the circumstances. It just felt like someone watched Spartacus and decided to write a book about gladiators as quickly as possible to cash in on the hype.
Laura’s Review: 0/5 Stars