Circus Maximus: Rivals on the Track

Annalise Gray

A truly EPIC SAGA, The second in the Circus Maximus adventure series is waiting in the holding pens ready to storm the arena and it is sure to set pulses racing!

I absolutely tore through Race to the Death, in fact it was one of my favourite reads of 2021. Ever since, I have been chomping at the bit to return to Rome for more white-knuckle chariot racing and brushes with death with unforgettable heroine, Dido.

Click on the cover to read my review of book 1.

And there’s no let-up in pace this time around. Rivals on the Track is pure, unbridled adrenaline! I could almost hear the roar of the crowd and taste the blood, sweat and sand of the colossal racing arena. There’s secrets, old scores to settle and family honour to fight for. These are monumental tales that in my opinion, would make for legendary motion pictures.

Dido is the only girl ever to have raced to victory at the Circus Maximus, Rome’s greatest sporting arena. Emperor Caligula has put a hefty reward out for the capture of both her and beloved horse Porcellus and they are forced to go into hiding at her Uncle Scorpus’ stables.

But old foes and treacherous villans rear their heads, stopping Dido in her tracks, whilst an estranged family member reaches out to Scorpus for help. A new circus is being built in Thugga and it’s all or nothing: Scorpus and his boys Hanno and Abibaal, ably assisted by Parmenion must race for their family’s honour. Winning is everything: will this spur Dido on to make a daring return to the tracks?

I always think a sign of a superb series is when being reunited with the characters feels like being back with old friends and it certainly felt that way, returning to the stables with Scorpus, Anna, Hanno, Abibaal and Parmenion. In this second instalment, we really get to grips with who they are and their individual struggles. We see Dido wrestle with her identity; who she wants to be versus who society thinks she should be. Determined to follow her dreams in a man’s world, she furiously kicks against typical female stereotypes and refuses to succumb to the expectation that girls of the time were to be married and start a family.

The horses are supremely well-developed characters in the story in their own right, each with their own carefully drawn temprement – Gray’s knowledge of caring for and handling these majestic creatures really shines through. Stallion Porcellus is pivotal to the plot once again, flanked by new addition Jewel, a one-eyed mare so brave she is sure to melt hearts.

Just as the chariots on the circus track, the story takes some breathtaking turns and a sensational plot twist near the end literally made me gasp – I can’t stop thinking about it! Although Dido is a fiercely independent young woman, I enjoyed watching the closeness between her and Parmenion develop. They are fiercely protective of one another and I’m wondering if there’s the possibility of a romance blossoming in the future.

I am desperately hoping that this isn’t the end and we get to take up the reins with Dido once again for another thrilling adventure on horseback.

Circus Maximus: Rivals on the Track stampedes into bookstores on 3rd February.

With thanks to Zephyr Books and Netgalley for approving me to read an advance copy of the book.

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