Lise Haines – The Girl in the Arena

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During the week, Lyn lives in a big house in Cambridge and hangs out with friends in Harvard Square. But over the weekend, she cheers her father on as he gears up for no-gladiator competition – a high-profile televised blood sport that rivals the NFL. Lyn’s father is the top player in the league, and the paparazzi that have always swarmed him have stated to dog Lyn’s every move.

All this fame comes with another price – Lyn’s family lives with the constant presence of violence, uncertainty, and a strict cultural code set by the Gladiator Sports Association. When a skilled young fighter slays Lyn’s father, the GSA imposes an unthinkable sentence – Lyn must marry her father’s murderer. Though her mother has made a career out of marrying into Glad culture, Lyn is prepared to do whatever it takes to claim her independence. Even if it means going into the arena herself.

When I first saw the cover and title, I thought ‘wow, sounds a lot like Hunger Games, wonder how they’ll do this one’ but then I opened the cover and read the flap (which is reproduced above) and I was thought it was super interesting. Like fight for your future, fight for your father. I started it with pretty high standards but they started to drop through the book.

The book opened with a background of the society, telling us that the Gladiator sport began as some dad giving toy swords and shields to his son and his friends and they had little tournaments or whatever and apparently some relative of his, living another state thought it was a good idea and started holding tournaments in his backyard with the kids in his neighborhood and somehow the idea spread across the country (i don’t even know how) and the wife of the guy who originally started it started writing laws for it and it just escalated to a huge scale and then some corporation decided to make it theirs and into an official sport and we’re left with present day society. I feel like this is pretty absurd, some backyard fights turning into a national sport? But I mean I guess that’s how the other sports became big, right? And so they have these giant arenas, and they fight with real weapons now and sometimes to the death. Not that far from ancient roman gladiators.

Quick overview:

Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiators (her mom marries Glad after Glad as they get killed in the arena). Her 7th father, Tommy, is the best gladiator around, no lost tournaments and every body likes Tommy because he’s just this wonderful guy and he cares for Lyn’s disabled brother Thad and her kinda wacked mom, Allison. Thad spouts prophecies and blurs realities and dreams and Allison is just mentally unstable.

Tommy has a tournament one day with Uber, I guess the Best Newcomer or whatever, at the national tournament and he loses, as the summary already says, and dies. In Glad culture, they have this thing called a dowry bracelet which is a bracelet a girl wears and only her father and the guy she will marry can hold it. Looks kinda like this?

So Lyn gives her dowry bracelet to Tommy before the fight as luck and he gets his hand sliced off (which Thad predicted) and the bracelet drops and because Tommy is Uber’s idol, Uber picks up the bracelet unknowingly on national TV and they trace it to her and boom, they’re engaged.

Sounds pretty interesting right? Not really. They spent like five chapters talking about how Tommy seemed off before his big fight even though he has always won and Uber was a newbie. And so we get like another three chapters of him telling Lyn of what to do if he loses and that he loves every one and blah blah blah. This seriously is totally unnecessary because the stuff Tommy wanted Lyn to do never gets down and we knew from the summary that Tommy would die and it pretty much killed any suspense his death would’ve had.

Not only that,  after the fight, Lyn has all these flashbacks of what they did with Tommy and her other dads and it sounds reasonable, any grieving daughter would. EXCEPT, that right after she says something along the lines of ‘those good ol days’ (not really) she goes on to say how she discovers some major character flaw with them. Like she remembers when they went to Italy and she had a good time with her family and all and then she found out that Tommy cheats on her mom. Like we spend half of the book in the past and I guess it develops character but it totally kills the plot.

AND, I already mentioned that Thad was prophetic but even though Lyn knows this, she acts super surprised anytime his prophecies come true. But because we pretty much figure out that Thad really is prophetic and he basically spouts out spoilers, there is no suspense whatsoever and makes this book really pointless to read.

And of course Uber, the guy Lyn is being forced to marry, instead of being rude and a brute, like the way you’d picture a killer, he’s a big softie who had idolized Tommy and is super regretful of killing him and is a little bit dumb but he’s a real gentleman and seems to genuinely want Lyn to like him. Seems like problem solved right? Not the worst person to be forced to marry, especially since they threaten to take her house and everything in it if she doesn’t.  But Lyn, first she feels like she absolutely can’t marry her father’s murderer which makes since but after she’s over that and actually thinks Uber isn’t such a bad guy. she still won’t marry him  because she needs…. independence? So, she knows the only way out would be to be a female Glad and fight Uber in a tournament (even though she apparently doesn’t want to hurt him)

And mostly her reason is that she’s not “ready for marriage” and so she’d rather fight Uber for her house (to the death) then just marrying Uber and being able to be entitled to a life full of everything. At first it was okay, like yeah I get it. You can’t marry the guy that killed your father, that’s reasonable but then she’s not even against Uber anymore and she would rather face the possibility of dying (for practically no reason now) then marry this real nice gentlemen who’s now the top Glad and could give her whatever she wanted.

This book is basically 50% about Past Tommy, 49.8% about how she MUST fight Uber and .2% of actual fighting. There is no suspense, no killer *gasp* moment, and a pretty dead plot overladen with unnecessary details.

Rating: 2.5/3

 

I seriously went through this whole book like

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