The Leopard Vanguard takes place in an alternate version of Ancient Rome, where magic happens. I was really excited during the first part of the book, because GRIFFINS. That's a really major reason why I want to read more (and a tiny reason why I was a bit disappointed) - there's not nearly enough magic in this book for me. The beginning promised a lot of magic, but then the book started turning to political intrigue.
In this book, we follow Tullus, a gifted Roman centurion. For the sake of love, he quits his job, but then his lady love dumps him (despite the fact that's unconventional in every other aspect, she refuses to go off with the man she loves). Heartbroken, he's found by a troupe of circus performers and bonds with a Leopardess named Celestra, becoming the Leopard King. When the troupe master is killed, he swears revenge on him.
At the same time, his lady love is being pursued by Tullus's perverted ex-boss, who despite his political inclinations has no qualms about abusing his future wife. The lady love (her name's Eliana), is more concerned with helping the merchants, who are being terrorised by a criminal overlord who is, you might have guessed, in league with the her fiance.
Behind all this is the story of emperor Caligula and his rise to power (as well as the people who want him dead).
Most of the time, I enjoyed the story (apart from the explicit scenes and swearing, but that's my personal preference), but I really don't like how Gansu, the Chinese troupe member was portrayed. The troupe is made up of many people, not all of them Romans, and yet every single character apart from the one Chinese guy talks normally. The way he talks reminds me of the stereotypes people use for Chinese people:
"You westerners, too much hurry. Come back tomorrow; I teach you more"And yes, he's teaching meditation. What else? And that was not my point. What I want to make is that this speaking style is not only unnecessary it's inaccurate as well.
Let's just use the final point: "I teach you more." In Chinese, I would say "我会教你跟多。“ 我 - I, 会 - will, 教你 - teach you, 跟多 - even more. I was going to pull out my Latin textbook and do another translation, but that would be pointless. This book is written in English anyway, and there's very little Latin. Besides, according to the way you conjugate the verb in Latin, you can probably make it express future-intention (will do something), so basically, you can have the same sentence in English, Chinese and Latin. There's no need to fall on stereotypes, since all the other characters, who presumably did not have Latin as a first language, speak very naturally.
Thankfully, weird English is about the extent of how things are for Gansu. I'm willing to overlook it for this book, but I'm really hoping the second book gets better (or eliminate Gansu's role. Really. I'd rather not see this).
Basically, apart from the Chingrish stuff, which irked me because I am Chinese, and the swearing and explicit scenes because I am a prude, I quite liked the book. It's like Game of Thrones, but set in Ancient Rome. So if you like Game of Thrones, you'll probably enjoy this book.
Disclaimer: I got this book from Enchanted Blog Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.