Book Review: RIVALS ON THE TRACK by Annelise Gray (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in brown on blurred red and green and black image of horses in a stadi
Genre: Historical
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: yes - second book



Book cover for RIVALS ON THE TRACK: title in black on green above dark horses racing in a red roman stadium

Dido is the only girl ever to have raced to victory at the Circus Maximus, Rome’s greatest sporting arena. Now she and her beloved horse, Porcellus, are in hiding, and the Emperor Caligula has put a price on their heads.

Can she outwit the emperor and his bounty hunters? And will a shocking family secret stop her in her tracks, or spur her on to make a daring return, helped by a one-eyed mare with a heart as brave as her own?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


RIVALS ON THE TRACK is another fabulous historical middle grade adventure set in the Roman racing world. Dido has escaped the emperor, but he’s sent bounty hunters after her. But trying to lie low on her uncle’s stables isn’t easy when old foes are stealing from them, so it’s time to head onto the track once more to ensure they have enough money to continue.

The pacing is once again terrific and the depth of research done into this book if fabulous. One thing I was so excited to see was the annotated diagram of a chariot and rider at the front of the book. It’s such a good way of showing what it (probably) looked like to bring the book to life even more – a picture is like a thousand words, after all! (I checked, and the first book has this too, in the finished format.)

I loved how this book tackled PTSD. Both Dido and Parmenion have scars (physical and emotional) from a big crash in the first book, which they are trying to learn to live with and heal from. Dido is afraid of getting back on the track while Parmenion has trouble with his leg.

We’re seeing more and more books in adult and YA tackle this subject, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in MG, and I really liked the way it tackled and acknowledged it. These characters have been through a lot, and it was so nice to see them get the time to heal from that, find new ways forward.

This is also a book about family and the complicated ties within them. RIVALS ON THE TRACK takes the hints from RACE TO THE DEATH and expands on them as the rest of the family are introduced. It’s been badly fractured from past events, and the grandfather and his two sons are still clinging to their grudges. Plus it’s not affecting how those two sons are interacting with their sons.

I’m not sure if there’s going to be another book. The ending feels pretty final, hinting at what the future might bring, but I’d like another book in this world with these characters.

Read my reviews of other books by Annelise Gray:

Circus Maximus (this series):


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