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The Gladiator and the Guard (Krillonian Chronicles Book 2) Kindle Edition
|Length: 424 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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I can't believe that I once found an early Annie Douglass Lima story to be predictable and unoriginal. Reading The Gladiator and the Guard, the follow-up to the also-excellent The Collar and the Cavvarach, I had no idea what was going to happen, and in fact my predictions were proven wrong again and again. The tension builds throughout the book until it culminates in a conclusion that I blame fully for the little sleep I got last night. Not to fall into cliche myself, but I couldn't put the Kindle down.
Bensin returns as the slave with a natural talent for cavvara shil, a popular martial art in this well-built world. He's on the verge of earning his freedom—something his owner (not to mention the adoptive father of Bensin's sister, Ellie), Steene, has been promising for the past four years—when the story opens. An act of cowardice compounded by corruption and injustice, however, sees Bensin trade one type of slavery for another, as he becomes a gladiator owned by the Red Arena, forced to fight for the amusement of blood-thirsting crowds on a regular basis, facing death often. Gladiators are owned for their all-too-short lives. Will Steene's selfishness at not freeing Bensin when he had the chance mean they'll never be a family again? Worse yet, will it mean Bensin dies a worthless death in the name of entertainment?
The Gladiator and the Guard is exciting, inventive, well-written, and full of engaging characters. I expected all that from the first book in the series. But it also contains unexpected depth, as Bensin struggles against a system of hate and violence, in which it would be all too easy for him to give in to the sadistic machismo of the Arena world. It's easier to hate than it is to love, the book admits, just as there's a difference between doing what's right and what's easy. You'll cheer when Bensin, Steene, and Ellie—as well as the colorful cast of new characters—do what's right.
I received a free copy of the previous book in exchange for an honest review. I was offered one for this book as well—but I had already preordered it! And I was happy to pay for it and to support the author of this excellent story, which is the rare sequel that surpasses its predecessor. To give in to cliche again, I cannot recommend this enough.
This book was very unique in that the world was so similar and yet dissimilar to ours. I went into it thinking it would be very Sci Fi or distopian feeling, and while it had elements of that, I really wouldn't classify it as such.
I enjoyed the fact that the author told a great story without anything gratuitous. This is a book I'd let my teens read. It's full of adventure, and I really respected the theme of people learning how to become the best versions of themselves in difficult situations. Great read and highly recommended!
(Btw I am reading the first book now.)
Audience: As an educator, I often read YA fiction for my enjoyment and also in pursuit of finding good literature for students. While this book is slightly more gory than C&C (because we are viewing the lives of gladiators instead of younger martial artists), I think it is still appropriate for a middle school audience and above. In fact, I happen to know the author personally and also a student who participated in a screening of the novel. This student was in 6th grade at the time of the reading, and she was so intrigued by the story that she decided to focus her Language Arts research essay on ancient Roman gladiators because of the similarities between them and the characters in G&G. This student was captivated by the story, and I had to hold her back from giving away any spoilers about the book before I had a chance to read it!
Merit: I only know a handful of authors personally, and I’ll be honest that knowing an author actually makes me more critical of the work(s) that he or she has written. With that in mind and the fact that the author is a personal friend, I have to say that this is one of the best YA books I’ve read in the past couple of years. I couldn’t put it down! I was traveling while reading an advanced copy of this book on my Kindle, and every night, no matter how tired I was, I had to read at least a little more of Bensin’s story. Ms. Lima’s writing is crisp and vivid; she paints a picture with her words. The action in the story is realistic and exciting; I never felt like the scenes were unbelievable. The dialogue and inner voices of the characters make them come to life, and their struggles are real. There were many “highlight-worthy” passages in this book—lines that I reread just to savor their impact. Even with all these great qualities in the writing style, by far my favorite aspects of this book are the moral and ethical questions it raises about slavery, freedom, and integrity (i.e. doing the right thing even when it’s the hardest option or no one else will understand your choices). These are questions that every person (even a 6th grader) can and should grapple with as we are faced with injustice in our modern world.
Conclusion: I think this is a great story for adults and youth alike. One of the best things about fiction is that it allows us to deal with aspects of our own lives in settings and places and through characters that are not overly familiar to us. It allows us to see our own lives through a different lens, and we often truly need that in order to learn about ourselves and about truth. “The Gladiator and the Guard” is a book that allows that sort of reflection while still being an exciting tale of harrowing acts of bravery, tremendous personal sacrifice, and perilous adventure. I highly recommend this story to anyone looking for a great read!
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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