Reviews /

Vita and the Gladiator

Authored by Ally Sherrick
Published by Chicken House books

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Vita and the Gladiator: Vita is the daughter of an ex-commander in the Roman army, living a comfortable life in Londinium in 125 CE, and dreaming of becoming a writer. Her parents have planned a marriage for her with one of her father’s former generals, and partly to escape the preparations for this, she attempts to see a play, disguised as a slave. From this moment, the plot takes a darker turn, as Vita’s family is attacked, her father murdered and her mother and brother disappear. Confused, grieving, and still dressed in the rags of a slave, she is captured and finds herself forced into a cell. Her fellow prisoner, a so-called barbarian from beyond the wall, named Brea, and her wolf, slowly learn to communicate and trust each other, as the reader is introduced to the routines of the fearsome gladiator training grounds.

The story is rich in detail, with the descriptions of Roman food, clothing, and entertainment helping to bring to life this turning point in British history. Set three years after the beginning of the construction of Hadrian’s wall and a generation or two after Boudicca’s rebellion against the Roman occupation, Vita’s world is brought vividly to life. Students may well be surprised to learn that women fought in the gladiatorial arenas of the time. The historical notes at the end provide a fascinating additional insight into Roman Britain.

Vita and the Gladiator is a fast-paced, gripping historical adventure that will appeal to fans of Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries or those who would like to move on from the Horrible Histories series, and would make an exciting and gripping class reader to accompany a history unit on the Romans. I would recommend the story to both teachers and children; I’m definitely looking forward to reading the author’s three previous historical novels.