Rhonda Roberts

Harper Voyager (2009)

ISBN: 978 0 7322 8855 6

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely, March 2010

Kannon Jarratt has only recently lost her foster mother, Yuki, who has raised her since she was found, in horrifying circumstances, at the age of two. Kannon, now twenty-two, is struggling to maintain Yuki’s dojo and the training offered there in her own, when Des, a retired police officer who worked her case twenty years before and is as good as family, comes across a lead on her her mysterious past. Could she really be Celeste, daughter of the illustrious time marshall Victoria Dupree? It seems there’s only one way to find out, so Kannon heads to the USA in search of answers, only to be thrown into a mystery bigger than she could have imagined. Thrown back in time to ancient Rome, Kannon will need to use every bit of cunning, strength and training she has just to survive, and make use of every possible ally to find Victoria, and the truth about her past.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of Gladiatrix, and it was a fast, action-packed read, I had a few quibbles with it. The main problem I had was with the dialogue of characters in Rome. I know that the “voices” are being filtered through first person narrator Kannon, who is getting everything from her modern day translator, but the tone simply didn’t ring true for me, and it constantly threw me out of the story.

I liked the character of Kannon, despite her tendancy to be super-good at everything, which is usually a turn-off – I think she came across as likeable enough, and just flawed enough to be believable. I liked Victoria Dupree even more, and hope she features larger in future instalments of the Timestalker series.

The bulk of the book is set in ancient Rome, with parts in a kind of alternate modern day Australia and USA. I don’t know a lot about classical Rome, and I think Roberts was fairly clever in the way she flavoured rather than saturated the story with elements of that society. Other than the dialogue, it was pretty realistic overall.

I found myself quickly immersed in this novel, and although it had some flaws, fans of Traci Harding’s early work will likely love Gladiatrix.