Released: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 496 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
A sweeping science-fiction saga of revenge set in a future in which the Roman Empire never fell, by actress Claudia Christian
When her mother and brother are murdered, young noblewoman Accala Viridius cries out for vengeance. But the empire is being torn apart by a galactic civil war, and her demands fall on deaf ears. Undeterred, Accala sacrifices privilege and status to train as a common gladiator. Mastering the one weapon available to her—a razor-sharp discus that always returns when thrown–she enters the deadly imperial games, the only arena where she can face her enemies.
But Fortune’s wheel grants Accala no favors—the emperor decrees that the games will be used to settle the civil war, the indigenous lifeforms of the arena-world are staging a violent revolt, and Accala finds herself drugged, cast into slavery and forced to fight on the side of the men she set out to kill.
Set in a future Rome that never fell, but instead expanded to become a galaxy-spanning empire, Accala’s struggle to survive and exact her revenge will take her on a dark journey that will cost her more than she ever imagined.
Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator has been one of my biggest surprises to this point in 2016. I loved the synopsis I read, but books don’t always live up to the standard/hype or whatever of readers expectations. Boy-o was I excited when I finally got to dive into this book! I read it very quickly because it’s absolutely a page turner that kept me entranced the whole way through. It’s got some cool elements that are comparable to the Red Rising trilogy and the Hunger Games, though it’s a thoroughly original story.
As in the ancient Rome we are familiar with, gladiatorial games were entertainment for the society, but in Wolf’s Empire, the games also have significant political impact as well. Accala of House Viridian is a gladiator, despite her father’s wishes that she settle down, marry, and have children as a proper noble lady should. Accala, however, wishes to avenge her mother and brother who were murdered at the hands of the rival House Sertorian by competing in the galactic gladiatorial games known as the Ludi Romani. The winner will gain control of several valuable planets that were captured by the Sertorians and the losing house will be exiled to the outer reaches and 10% of their population will be executed. Things become much more complicated than Accala could have anticipated and she becomes embroiled in secrecy, plots, double-crossing and drug manufacturing. What I’ve mentioned is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of plot complexity.
The characters were each vibrant and so alive – there characters that I loved and hated and Accala was just fantastic. There was such a struggle between her dual allegiances both physically and mentally throughout the story and I found her easy to sympathize with, though her choices were poor and short-sighted at times. The Sertorians (and many of the others) were positively loathsome, which is great since they were the villains of this story. I’m really curious about the long political game that’s playing out in this series. It was clear that there was something going on from the beginning, but I thought it would be mostly resolved by the end of this first installment. The game is clearly much more complex than I initially thought – EXCITEMENT!
This was a great read and I love trying out these books that I wouldn’t normally purchase on my own because it really helps broaden my bookish horizons. I will say that my one issue with this book is how little Roman society seems to have changed over the course of the empire. In this book, the empire has been established for around 8000 years, which I would think would mean serious cultural changes. It’s literally as if they took ancient Rome, gave them technological advances and stuck them in space. They still believe in the Roman deities, think little of women, and hold on to the most ancient literature and ideals. This was a little unbelievable to me, but that’s the only negative point I can really make about this book. I loved it and I think it’s totally worth trying out!