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I'm a huge fan of Ally Sherrick's historical fiction for children so I was delighted to know that this was out this February. 'Vita and the Gladiator' is an absolutely riveting Roman thriller with gut-wrenching drama fit for the Colosseum itself. Packed full of historical detail and characters that grow in legendary status, this is a first rate middle grade story that is also about storytelling in all its powerful glory.

When high-born Vita’s father is murdered in Roman Londinium, Vita is forced to disguise herself as a slave at the gladiator’s arena. Here she forges an unlikely bond with Brea, a native Briton gladiatrix. Together, they resolve to bring the killer to justice before Vita is discovered …

Ally Sherrick has such a brilliant way of pulling you back into the past. 'Vita and the Gladiator' plunges you into the dangerous and deceitful world of Londinium and holds you in its power into the end. I guarantee that you will not want to stop reading after you reach the end of Chapter IV. This is truly nail-biting, devastating storytelling, sure to astonish any Emperor or child! Gladiatorial combat scenes towards the climax are utterly thrilling - Ally Sherrick describing heart-pounding action with cinematic punch too. I loved Vita and also her blue-faced Celt friend Brea. Their relationship is unlikely but all the more beautiful and revealing for it. And the juxtaposition of Romans, Celts and slaves offers brilliant perspectives on history and how storytelling shines a light on the very worst of our natures, as well as the truly inspiring. There is so much in this that would be great for Key Stage Two children, in particular, who love history, especially the Romans. 

If you haven't read any of Ally Sherrick's books then this is a great place to start. Here are my reviews of two of her previous books: 'The Buried Crown' and 'The Queen's Fool'. 

Thank you to the author and Chicken House books for sending this my way.

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