Book Review: The Arena

Arena, The

  • Title: The Arena
  • Author: R.B. Ellis
  • Series: The Shadow Epics (#1)
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publishing Date: May 19th, 2020
  • Publishing Co.: Mage Publishing
  • Length: 392 pages
  • Format: Kindle Unlimited, Paperback, Hardback
  • Acquired: Given free print copy in exchange for an honest review
  • Amazon Link: The Arena

Fame Isn’t Everything.

Cael Brenion, a contracted combatant, kills to provide for his little brother. 

His harmless boasts inadvertently gain the attention of the most powerful people in Yddinas.

Cael discovers physical prowess means nothing in the psychological games of throne and politics, where he and his brother are nothing but pawns on a board.

Sometimes…death is the only answer.

Meanwhile, Agenayus, high priest and a disguised member of a magical race, struggles to keep the city’s ambitions within the borders of the mystical barrier that secretly protects the human race from the harmful magic beyond. 

Ambitions clash, and the fate of a city and civilization will be decided by the outcome. 

Old Ways Die.


Final Judgment: 4 Stars out of 5

Trigger Warning: This novel contains adult language, sexual content, and graphic violence.

Cael is a gladiator, fighting for honor and riches in Yddinas. He fights to keep his brother alive, with food on the table and a name in the city for protection. At least, that’s what he tells himself. Perhaps the wealth and fame has somewhat filled his head. But as political maneuverings and gruesome plots develop, the city becomes a dangerous place, and Cael is at the thick of it. Will he survive? Will he be able to protect his little brother?

I started reading this book, going into it thinking that it was a YA kind of novel. Maybe similar to the Hunger Games. This was a major miscalculation on my part. I recommend that this novel not be read by anyone under the age of 18. There is extensive cursing, sexual scenes, and extremely gruesome events. The themes would not carry well for a teenager, as they are targeted much more to the adult.

Throughout the entire book, I had no idea where the plot was going. I thought that it would be centered around The Arena and the gladiators, but it was more of a bid for power between the most powerful people in the city. The Arena is simply a tool. Because of this, the plot is unpredictable and jumps around with a lot of different angles, depending on whose POV is current. One of the reasons this received a rating of 4 instead of 5 stars is because the plot seemed very hodgepodge, and mashed together. There was no real aim from beginning to end. In fact, a large magical clue is given to us readers in the very beginning, but turns out not to be not even remotely important in the book. Perhaps in the sequel.

The writing itself is phenomenal. Lots of metaphors and beautiful language that individualizes each character. This was where I truly loved the novel. I wanted to see more of the camaraderie between characters, as well as get a better feel for each of their distinctive narrative styles.

Overall, this novel was an interesting ride. Not quite what I expected, and I was unable to really form any new expectations as I went through it. But, it was fun. I enjoyed the grimdark themes, the violence, and most of all, the characters. They were true people, flawed and motivated by different desires. I will be picking up the sequel!

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