In the Galactic Roman Empire, eight noble houses fight for power. One gladiator fights for justice. This isWolf's Empire: Gladiator, by Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan.
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.
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Actor Christian and author Buchanan (Babylon Confidential) disappoint with an almost aggressively dull, exposition-dense novel set in a world in which the Roman Empire neither crumbled nor changed its core nature, even as humans evolved into a space-faring people. In this world, House Viridian is at war with House Sertorian, and young Viridian gladiatrix Accala is intent on seeking revenge for the deaths of her mother and brother. Naturally, things don't go her way in this extremely patriarchal future, and she soon finds herself forced to work with the Sertorians in an attempt to put down an alien rebellion. Christian and Buchanan pile the clich s high and heavy: Accala is portrayed as a vengeance-seeking but dithering gladiator who just can't bring herself to kill opponents in the ring, and Bulla, a simple-minded house slave from a race called the Taurii, spouts halting dialogue ("He try to send you message after message, but they all blocked"). The worldbuilding is flimsy, and the long, ponderous passages that describe everything in first-person, as-you-know detail bog down the novel in ways that the occasional action sequence fails to disrupt.