There's Lysandra. She was once the greatest gladiatrix in the arena and is yet unbeatable. However, years have gone by and she is now getting "soft" and rather lost in her cups. She's got a weakness for the drink. She also doesn't fight as much as she used to and has become a paper pusher. When she receives a summons from Rome to fight the new, unbeaten, gladiatrix prima, she decides she needs to do it because she the "heady drug of victory was stronger than wine." She's tough, arrogant, but sometimes makes a fool of herself.
Varia is from book one also. In book one, she adored Lysandra. Lysandra became her instructor. Varia no longer idolizes Lysandra, however, because she begins to resent her. Lysandra has taken to mothering her and holding her back from what she most wants to do: fight in the arena.. She runs away to fight, unaware that she could very well be pit against the woman she once loved and admired above all others. She's stubborn and fights for what she wants, even if it's not the right thing.
Valerian is from book one as well, though I honestly don't remember much about him from the first one. In the first one, the women def stole the show. He's a Roman soldier in the beginning who ends up traumatized from a major battle loss. I do not like reading about Roman soldiers, Roman war strategy, or Roman battles. That has simply never interested me and thus, I didn't enjoy this guy's parts. His parts really do go on and on too much about that battle. That's one of my quibbles. He is dealing with shame and struggling to get his life back in order.
New addition: Aesalon Nocturna. She's a gorgeous and unbeaten gladiatrix that is going to be pitted against Lysandra. She becomes close friends with Varia as she trains her for the arena. I really enjoyed the parts involving her and Varia. I must note there was also a fabulous sex scene involving these two. Wow!
There were many other likable characters as well, namely two bodyguards that Lysandra picks up. I enjoyed their banter and just their characters overall.
The first half of the book was pretty slow, a lot of "setting the scene and storyline." One the novel went past the halfway mark, however, things picked up considerably and the last quarter had me on the edge of my seat and especially the parts involving the gladiatrices had me riveted. The anticipation leading up to Lysandra and Nocturna's fight. . . fabulous. Because at that point, Lysandra has nothing to lose. She believes her life is in Athena's hands and is willing to sacrifice it.. Nocturna, however, has much to live for. She loves her life, the adoration of the fans, the fighting..
Regardless, two amazing and unbeaten fighters are going to face off. One is going to have to lose.
Quibbles: 1. Valerian's parts. 2. Not a whole lot of Sorina, a character I wanted more of. 3. The language was far too modern for ancient Rome. I have a hard time visualizing Romans calling each other "mate" and saying things like, "wanker."
A good read even though I still like the first one better. Four stars.
I bought this on Amazon Kindle.