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Gladiator: Wolf's Empire #1    by Claudia Christian & Morgan Grant Buchanan order for
by Claudia Christian
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Gladiator, a tome by Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan, opens Wolf's Empire, an SF series set in a future Galactic Roman Empire on the verge of civil war, as its eight noble houses battle for supremacy, one of them (House Sartorian) claiming genetic superiority.

Our heroine Accala, a highborn member of the Viridian clan, grieves over the deaths of her mother and younger brother on Olympus Decimus, which was bombed by the hated Sartorians. Accala seeks vengeance and, against her father's wishes, trains as a common gladiator (Lupa She-Wolf) under her mentor, Marcus, her weapon of choice a razor-sharp discus that boomerangs back to her when thrown.

Though Accala wins her chance to compete in the Ludi Romani, her father forbids it. Then Sartorian Crassus (who is in love with Accala) offers her a deal she can't refuse. Claiming that her brother Aulus is still alive and in Sartorian hands, he offers to return him to Accala if she joins the Sartorian team. Of course she does so and is labelled a traitor by her family (aside from the uncle she confides in) and the mob.

Treated as a slave by the other Sartorian team members, Accala is also addicted to a drug they all take (ambrosia from Olympus Decimus) and it changes her greatly - in her powers and also her personality. She has some help from her roommate, field engineer Julia Silvana. And she does find what happened to her brother when she meets the powerful Lumen.

I liked this story very much at the beginning but didn't particularly enjoy the excessive complexity and horror introduced later. Still, if you enjoy SF that's very complicated, and filled with gory action, you will probably appreciate Accala's devolution and then redemption as a true heroine of a far future Rome. And this is only the first in the series.

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