If you haven’t heard of Blood and Sand and you’re a fan of fantasies with fierce warriors and cunning women, where have you been? We’re traveling back to the Roman Republic, during an age of “to conquer or be conquered” and exploring the story of Spartacus, the famous gladiator… if they were a girl. There is ACTION, there is a super sweet and steamy ROMANCE, and there’s the HOPE of the people, ready to rebel against their captors.
The action-packed tale of a 17-year-old warrior princess and a handsome gladiator who dared take on the Roman Republic–and gave rise to the legend of Spartacus….
Roma Victor. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to build an empire–an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.
Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.
Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end–and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus….
Blood and Sand just blew me away from start to finish. I loved following Attia’s journey as she headed towards revenge against the Roman Republic – quickly becoming an empire – for destroying her clan and leaving her princess of a nation swallowed by the growing Roman nation. This book loosely follows the story of Spartacus and focuses on the gladiators and fighters who are willing to challenge an empire that took them from their homeland. Following a historical bent like And I Darken by Kiersten White and female warriors that are ready to fight for justice like The Valiant by Lesley Livington, Blood and Sand blends fact and fiction to create an immersive, fast-paced adventure that will leave readers’ hearts pounding and blood rushing.
Told from a third person POV, Blood and Sand begins with Attia, the princess of Maedi, seeing her home destroyed and being sold to slavery. To say she hates it is an understatement. The moment she is sold to Timeus, a Roman politician vying his way towards the top, she is ready to plan her revenge and assassination of the people who brought destruction towards her land. For now though, she needs to recuperate and heal while serving Timeus’s family… and the gladiator she was bought for.
“She’d been a warrior once, and free. Now she was the only one left, the last Thracian the world would never know. She wondered if history would remember the genocide of the Maedi, the annihilation of her people.
Doubtful, she thought. History only serves the winner.
This gladiator is Xanthus, and he is not what I expected. Although he’s the champion gladiator of the time, he feels sorrow for every death that he causes. Xanthus is actually really sensitive and a kind soul at heart, despite his notoriety as a skilled gladiator. He initially rejects Timeus’s “gift” of Attia because forcing people to do things is the opposite of his nature. This just goes to show that it’s possible to write battle-hardened and skilled characters that aren’t just bulky Alphas – they can have more to their personalities than assertive and borderline-abusive natures. As Xanthus and Attia discover each other’s strengths and hatred against the Roman Republic, they form a close bond against the people who think they own them. I really enjoyed their developing romance because of its foundation on balance and respect. Both warriors care about the other’s feelings and have a healthy communication with one another. You can tell I really like Xanthus’s character because I spent a whole paragraph on this man – he’s just so refreshing!
“Because maybe in this house, in this prison, they both wanted the same impossible thing: to be just a man and just a woman, standing free in the rain.”
The plot is always at a fast pace, nonstop with its action and fighting and plotting. The politicians of Rome are very conniving as they put on false smiles and plot against one another. The characters themselves are thoroughly explored, and I enjoyed seeing all their facets: from the miserly ways of Timeus to his son Lucius that is at crossroads, and even the lovely banter between the gladiators – Xanthus’s blood brothers. And speaking of the gladiators, they’re amazing and I love every one of them. We get brief glimpses of their personalities and that’s more than enough to feel their kinship and loyalty. There’s just something about Wyk’s writing and me that just clicked. Everything flowed so nicely, and I ended up reading the story in one go – staying up until 2 am to finish.
Attia herself is very well-written and an awesome character to follow! She’s very fierce and has a resilient nature that doesn’t falter, even when other characters encourage her to forget about her past. Her direct personality made her funny in subtle ways, and this bled to the straightforward dialogue that she wasn’t afraid to express. She has both the strength and smarts to survive… although she’s not invincible. Wyk writes Attia with flaws and her battle training doesn’t always save her, which I always appreciate in a character. Overall, I really enjoyed seeing her journey as she plans towards the downfall of the Roman Republic and can’t wait to see where she ends up in the sequel.
“‘I see their faces, Attia. I see them in the shadows. I see them when I close my eyes.’
Attia rested her forehead against his. ‘Then keep your eyes on me, champion. And we’ll face the shadows together.’”
Speaking of sequel, I’m ready for it now! While Blood and Sand doesn’t have an extreme cliffhanger, it still leaves readers thirsty for more. Full of grit and tenacity, this book is an action-packed historical fantasy that will draw readers in from page one. The characters are all multifaceted and easy-to-like despite their flaws, and the constantly-moving plot make for quick page-turning. I really recommend it for readers looking for a fast plot and action that will leave them with an adrenaline rush – I’m getting one from just writing this review! In between this action is a wonderful mix of slow burn romance, character introspection, and the determined spark of rebellion that’s just waiting to uncoil.
abuse, heavy violence, gore, animal deaths
Thank you Netgalley and Tor Teen for the review copy!
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