Blood and Sand
The first in a proposed trilogy, Blood and Sand is Wyk’s debut novel about one young woman’s quest for vengeance in ancient Rome: a gender-flipped retelling of the Spartacus story. Attia, the crown princess of Thrace, was captured and sold into slavery when the Roman army decimated her homeland. Her entire family, town, and culture were left in ruins, and she herself was given as a reward to Xanthus, the premier gladiator in the ludus of Timeus. Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a bond and discover that they share a common enemy. Gradually, they decide to seek vengeance together and then flee to freedom, but before they can carry out their plans, Timeus makes a deal with a neighboring ruler that results in Attia taking up arms in defense of Xanthus in the gladiatorial arena—and giving rise to the birth of Spartacus, here an unknown and mysterious fighter.
Wyk’s novel is full of action and drama, as well as characters who develop pleasingly along the way. It is wonderful to see a strong female protagonist in a YA novel, though the same effect could be attained with adhering to historical facts, with which many liberties were taken. Even with these quibbles, this is still an entertaining read and is recommended.