Blood & Sand by C. V. Wyk

blood and sandWHOA. I am still reeling from this one. It’s the perfect blend of historical fiction and pure fantasy – I mean, a genderbent retelling of Spartacus? Could there be anything better?

“And then as one, ten thousand honored soldiers of Thrace — Maedi warriors all — fell to their knees before the girl. The red of their cloaks spread out like a sea of blood. Attia became her father’s heir that day, the first future queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, destined to rule the greatest warrior kingdom the world has seen since ancient Sparta. She was seven years old.”

I loved Blood and Sand from beginning to end. Attia is a fierce warrior princess-turned-slave and she isn’t about to call any man “dominus” (master). I was Team Attia pretty much page one and she only got better as the book wore on. I love fierce female protagonists, especially when they’re all edges at first but learn how to not eat every single person around them as they come to realize that there are people in this world who are not crappy and deserve to be loved. Attia is all daggers and broken shards at first, but she really comes to care about the people in her new household (not all of them – her “owner” is definitely still a POS, but some of them are genuinely good) and that shifts her characcter ever so slightly. Instead of just being a feral-revenge-seeker she turns into a total BA vengeance-bringer who I am so totally rooting for in the next book (prediction: it’s going to get crazy).

“Broad pillars covered in chains adn harnesses stretched down the middle of the room, and nearly half a dozen men were bound to them. They weren’t gladiators; they were fodder – their sole purpose to entertain by dying in sand and blood.”

Yes, the plot takes some liberties with history (the author is very upfront about that from the beginning), but it also gives a fascinating look inside the Roman Empire from the point of view of the conquered – not a viewpoint you see everyday. I lived in Italy for six months, so I am used to my share of Roman history, but I feel like most history focuses on the greatness of the Romans’ civilization. It doesn’t focus on the conquered. The slaves. The gladiators. The incredible oppression and bloodshed that fed the Roman Empire.

“History only serves the winner.”

It’s like peeling back a curtain to place the POV on the shoulders of a conquered man and woman, both forced into slavery and bonded together through their losses. Xanthus and Attia are both strong warriors in their own right, but where Xanthus feels immense guilt over the lives he’s taken in the arena (albeit against his will) Attia feels nothing but hatred towards her captors and a desire to watch Rome burn for its crimes. Yet, despite their different outlooks, they fit together remarkably well. Xanthus brings out the softer side of Attia and she brings him hope for a brighter future, free from the land of their bondage. I am definitely shipping them.

Blood & Sand reminds me of Kiersten White’s And I Darken. I know for a fact that Lada and Attia would have gotten along just fine (burning the whole world down in the process, probably), and if you like your historical fiction genderbent and ruthless, this is a perfect read for you. They’re definitely different books, but they are in the same vein, genre-wise, and I hope it inspires a trend because it is delicious. Now I just need the release date for the sequel, because I can’t wait to hold it in my hands and find out where this Spartacus goes next.

Rating: 5+/5 stars

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