Friday, January 24, 2020

Anna Hackett - Gladiator

When Earth space marine Harper Adams finds herself abducted by alien slavers off a space station, her life turns into a battle for survival. Dumped into an arena on a desert planet on the outer rim, she finds herself face to face with a big, tattooed alien gladiator…the champion of the Kor Magna Arena.
A former prince abandoned to the arena as a teen, Raiden Tiago has long ago earned his freedom. Now he rules the arena, but he doesn’t fight for the glory, but instead for his own dark purpose—revenge against the Thraxian aliens who destroyed his planet. Then his existence is rocked by one small, fierce female fighter from an unknown planet called Earth.
Harper is determined to find a way home, but when she spots her best friend in the arena—a slave of the evil Thraxian aliens—she’ll do anything to save her friend…even join forces with the tough, alpha male who sets her body on fire. But as Harper and Raiden step foot onto the blood-soaked sands of the arena, Harper worries that Raiden has his own dangerous agenda… 

Comment: I got interested in this book after a recommendation somewhere. Sci-fi isn't something I look for a lot these days but once in a while a blurb catches my attention. I was looking for to read this one since it mixed romance with aliens and the possibility to develop a new world.

When this book starts the heroine Harper is in a space ship where a team of scientists and the ship is attacked by alien forces. The aliens are slave owners that take some of the ship's elements to sell in a completely different side of the galaxy which means Harper and the other humans won't have much opportunity to go back home.
Harper sees herself in a new reality and the planet they end up with is managed by powerful beings divided into houses that use their slaves to fight in arenas, just like gladiators.
Harper does well in her new life but some other beings don't do as well and Harper feels protective of them. She is also impressed with Raiden Tiago, a former prince of his planet, which has been destroyed by the alien race that kidnapped Harper. Although the two feel attracted to one another, they both try to ignore it but each recognize in the other someone they could trust. Will they be able to find happiness together?

This is a story that presents an interesting new world, not just because of the aliens but of the possibilities different types of beings and situations could represent in a different reality. I was quite curious about how the author would develop the world, which sense she would give the aliens, if they were friendly or not... it's much easier to think about these elements in comparison with the details we already know from other sources. I think the author has thought about many good details but as it don't usually happen with first books, not a lot of information was given about the surroundings besides the basics.

I'd say this was what disappointed me the most: the huge potential was simply not well used because the story is very quick, things are explained very superficially, the characters are not as complex as I'd have preferred and it seems to me the purpose of this story (and I assume the series) is to offer short, repetitive and vague plots, not really develop an intricate world like we would see in other works like Harry Potter, just to name a famous one, where the world building is rich and the characters complex.

My initial disappointment aside, I focused on the simplicity of the plot but there isn't a lot about it. The house, or general group, to which Harper is going to belong is actually a good, united one where everyone is more a friend than master and slave. The slavery issue can be bothersome to some readers but honestly, this is almost an afterthought because the main plot is centered around the romantic relationship and the friendships among characters as well as helping innocents, etc.
I'd say the slavery element is actually just a means to put some characters in a disadvantage position.

The romantic relationship between Harper and Raiden is quick, there's no complexity nor layers between their attraction and commitment. This happened as if the author had thought "they have to go from point A to point B and let's not take detours" which is precisely what happens. Sure, it's sweet, it's cute they end up together in an unlikely situation but what a pity, I thought, there wasn't more to them besides the basics and the information they discuss which is how we know they are good guys and such. Practically no show whatsoever, this is pretty much a tell plot.

Described like this it looks as if I didn't enjoy the book. I did and even those who don't like alien romances would find this to be fluffy and easy and without provocation but I can't help but try to explain why I think a more complex world or society would make this a stronger story.
I would say the best thing about the book is the easy manner in which the characters deal with one another. It makes their relationships look easy and based on trust and camaraderie and respect. The same thing happens between Harper and Raiden but the romance they share gives us a slightly different sense of them.

The secondary characters seem intriguing enough, especially the ones who we can recognize as being different types of aliens and, of course, this being a series, many of them will certainly be protagonists of their own installments.
I'm feeling doubtful on whether I'll read more of this series. I liked this enough to have read it until the end, not that many pages anyway but to think the development and possible layers to peel will likely be non existent makes me think twice.
All in all, this cute enough but not as "magical" as I would have wished.
Grade: 7/10

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