I have absolutely loved following Dido’s thrilling adventures in the Circus Maximus series, first in Race to the Death, then Rivals on the Track and now Rider of the Storm: a heart-pounding, action-packed adventure with an unforgettable heroine fighting for those she loves in the most dangerous race of her life.
Dido is no longer racing on the tracks of the Circus Maximus, but is helping train horses with Scorpus and Parmenion. When bringing their horses in to shelter from a storm, she hears the sound of an animal in distress and, despite the danger, goes to find it. She discovers a wild young black stallion, who reminds her of her beloved Porcellus, and offers to train him. Ghost may seem untrainable but, whilst others may be ready to give up on him, Dido persists as she understands that he has been hurt and her deep love for animals pushes her to keep trying, but will he prove even too much for Dido?
Whilst Did0 feels like she is stagnating at her uncle’s stables, her cousin Abibaal has gone to Rome – against his father’s wishes – to follow his dreams of racing in the Circus Maximus. But when news arrives that Abibaal has been recruited to race for emperor Caligula’s Greens faction, Dido feels betrayed as the emperor is her greatest enemy. Despite this, she loves her family and is not prepared to let the emperor destroy her cousin, so she sets out to save him …
And so begins Dido’s most dangerous mission as she finds herself back in the Circus Maximus, intent on saving both her uncle and his son by reuniting them. Will Dido be able to pull Abibaal from the clutches of the emperor before he destroys him? Will she be able to keep one step ahead of her enemy, or will she be caught up in his games? And will she find herself, once more, racing for her life in the Circus Maximus?
In this adventure, I was given more insight into the nature of emperor Caligula and I really felt the tension and unpredictability each time he appears. There is something quite terrifying in his childish petulance (coupled with fear of thunderstorms and love of dressing up and playing games); in his need to exert absolute control; in his God-complex; and, the cruel treatment of his charioteers who fall out of favour.
Life is too short to live in the shadows …
Dido is a truly awe-inspiring protagonist with an indomitable spirit, someone who shows incredible strength and courage in facing her enemies, in healing divisions within her family and in realising what is truly important in life, even when this means making sacrifices and putting herself in danger. Dido doesn’t give up on either the people or animals she loves as she fights to save both. I really liked that Dido learns more about her mother and what happened to her through meeting her mother’s former employer, a circus acrobat who encourages Dido to follow in her mother’s footsteps; that she reunites with her friend, Helvia who is such a strong, successful, female in a male-dominated world; and, I adored the deep bonds of family and friendship that she has formed with Scorpus and Parmenion.
Circus Maximus: Rider of the Storm is a thrilling, action-packed, epic adventure, oscillating between excitement, danger and tension, and the heartfelt bonds between family and friends. An utterly gripping, edge-of-your-seat, unputdownable adventure for readers of 9+.
Annelise Gray was born in Bermuda and moved to the UK as a child. She grew up riding horses and dreaming of becoming a writer. After gaining a PhD in Classics from Cambridge, she worked as a researcher for authors and TV companies on topics as varied as Helen of Troy, Russian princesses and the history of labradors. She’s previously published a history of the women of the Roman Empire and a crime novel set in the Roman Republic. Annelise’s debut children’s novel, Circus Maximus: Race to the Death, was published by Zephyr in 2021 and longlisted for the Branford Boase Award and Rivals on the Track in 2022. Annelise lives with her husband in Dorset where she teaches Latin.
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Thank you so much to Laura Smythe and Zephyr Books for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour and for providing me with a copy of Rider of the Storm in exchange for my honest opinion.
Please do check out the other posts on the Blog Tour: