I was given The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard in exchange for an honest review and I’m happy that I was. I find it difficult to review them separately, as the story seems to continue so well between the former and the latter, with (thankfully) a third novel on its way.
To start, I must say that the storyline is unlike anything that I’ve ever read. Lima takes us into a world that is so much like our own and yet completely different. A modern fantasy world with an empire that exists in the southern hemisphere of its planet (it’s summer in January) where we have trucks, television, martial arts tournaments and slavery. Yes . . . slavery. Picture our world, with a modern Roman Empire and where slavery is legal. Political factions fight for better slave rights (eleven-hour work days and a day off a week). Some slaves are treated fairly by their owners. Others are whipped when they disobey.
Into this storyline steps Bensin, who will risk anything to see his little sister freed from the yoke of slavery. He is purchased away from her by a kind martial arts instructor, Coach Steene, who decides to build upon his training from a prior instructor (and rival). The first book ends with a heart-warming conclusion. I do have to say that Bensin keeping his sister a secret from his new owner rubbed me as wrong. The ending of the first book (“Collar”) did give me a satisfying ending and the responses of all characters involved seemed exactly within character.
The second book (“Gladiator”) picks up four years after the first book. Bensin’s goal for the first book has worked out well and he is now competing in the martial arts tournament to earn the money to buy his own freedom. But he is accused of a crime that he doesn’t commit and, due to crooked judges and arenas, he finds himself with the death penalty looming over him. He is to be killed by a gladiator in the arena but he’s just too good and wins the fight, prompting the owner of the arena to keep him around for a while.
Meanwhile, Coach Steene is trying everything that he can to free Bensin, realizing that he could have avoided everything if he’d just freed Bensin sooner. The things that he does to free Bensin—right up to and including sacrificing his own freedom—left me on the verge of tears when I finished the novel. Now, I can’t wait for the third one.
If any indie novel deserves a movie treatment, this is the series. The martial art, cavvara shil, truly deserves to be seen. Although I must admit that Lima truly described each action scene well.
I give both books five stars and will pass them along to my daughter, as they are definitely clean reading.