Gladiators as a trope work quite well in science fiction romance and are a popular genre. Fighting for your life and also to save your human fated mate in an alien arena in the far future leads to fun story telling.
When I was a kid, I used to watch the old “sword and sandal” movies on the local TV station on weekend afternoons and I loved them! Something about the gladiators of ancient Rome really appealed to me and especially as a venue for telling good stories. In particular I loved “Demetrius and the Gladiators”, starring Victor Mature. I really imprinted on his dramatic red cloak and insisted my gladiators had to have the same on the covers of my books. I also ate up pretty much any version of “Last Days of Pompeii,” but especially the 1984 TV miniseries with Duncan Regehr as the gladiator Lydon. I hugely enjoyed the first season of “Spartacus” on the Starz cable channel in 2010. That one was almost too gritty for me but presented quite a picture of what the life was like.
The important thing to remember is that a gladiator wasn’t necessarily fighting to the death every time he or she stepped onto the sands. Yes, that did happen on occasion but gladiators were too valuable and too much was invested in their training to just kill off half of them every week. So based on the research I’ve done, I suspect many times the participants simply fought to a draw or till one was vanquished but not killed. Thumbs up.
Live to fight again another day!
I have a three book (so far) series featuring genetically engineered warriors, entitled Badari Gladiators (the box set is on sale for only $.99 this month) and I’ve greatly enjoyed plotting out suitable twists and turns for my heroes and their fated mates. In the first book Kyden the gladiator meets and falls in love with a senator’s daughter but of course she’s way above his reach in the social strata so the book works through their challenges. In the second book Rennyr a different man has just been sold from the lab where he was created to be a gladiator and has to adapt quickly to the brutal life and to save a human woman. I even have an arena scene in that one which was inspired by the awesome Triffids of classic science fiction. Finding different scenarios for my futuristic gladiators is a fun challenge.
Anna Hackett also had a very successful series, Galactic Gladiators, which begins with the crew of a human space station having been kidnapped from orbit in our solar system and auctioned off in a far distant place. In the first novel of the series, Gladiator, one of the unfortunate humans has been put in the arena to fight a well-known and deadly alien but a “former prince abandoned to the arena as a teen” who is now the top fighter, steps in to save her. The first book sets up the entire series and the author excels at adding twists with each book and providing different challenges for her couples to overcome. The series is complete at twelve books and came to a satisfying ending as far as this reader was concerned. There’s also a follow-on series, The House of Rone, which continues threads from the first set of books.
Alana Khan’s Galaxy Gladiators series opens with Zar, a half-lion, half-human alien fighter, who is given an abducted human as a reward and the pair are forced to become mates. Of course the action doesn’t stop there. As the author says in the series blurb: “If you like hot alien gladiators, kick-ass Earth women who mastermind insurrections, and sexy action romance”, then this series would be for you. One of the delights are the portraits of the various alien fighters on the covers of each of the nineteen books in the series. The books follow different gladiator/human woman couples, although Zar and his mate do return to the forefront in book eighteen.
Ruby Dixon wrote one gladiator book (as far as I’m aware), which I greatly enjoyed. The book is Angie’s Gladiator (IceHome Book Five) and the alien in question is actually a clone, crashlanded and marooned on the Ice Planet. The main female character, Angie, is pregnant, not sure what the outcome will be, and feels quite isolated and apart from the other humans in the Ice Home settlement. Here’s what our hero, Vordis wants: “Cloned from the same matter as thousands of others, I am but one of many. Here on the ice planet, though, I can start over. I can become my own person, have my own needs, my own wants. I know what I want. I have known since the moment I arrived. Her name is Angie. She is human, with sad, lonely eyes and a very pregnant belly. To her, I am not just another clone. I am Vordis, the one who laughs at her jokes, tends to her needs, and makes her smile. I will do anything to make her mine.” It’s actually a sweet book in the series, not so much a gladiator book as there’s no arena and no staged fights, but Vordis’s past as a fighter definitely informs his present and how he approaches life.
Miranda Martin and James D. Horton bring the Gladiators of Krix series to life, beginning with Spthifius. Kidnapped human women are taken to a planet where the alien masters really only care about their gladiators and the women are pawns and prizes. In the first book, gutsy Savannah “cozies up” to one of the biggest, baddest gladiators, hoping he can help her contact the Free Movement and escape. He’s suspicious, concerned getting attached to her will break one of his two rules to live by, which he credits with keeping him alive as a gladiator: “One: Take what you want or have it taken from you. Two: Don’t let anyone close. You let them in, then they can hurt you.” These two come together and work through the misunderstandings and hidden motives to achieve the Happy Ever After ending they deserve.
Of course there are other series I didn’t have time to get to today as well. Action, adventure, romance and gladiators! Happy reading!