Circus Maximus: Race to the Death

Race to the Death Book Cover

Circus Maximus, the greatest sporting stage of the ancient Roman world, where the best horses and charioteers compete in a race to the death, and one girl dreams of glory. Ben Hur meets National Velvet in the ultimate 9-12 adventure story by debut children's author, Annelise Gray.


Twelve-year-old Dido dreams of becoming the first female charioteer at the great Circus Maximus. She's lost her heart to Porcellus, a wild, tempestuous horse she longs to train and race. But such ambitions are forbidden to girls and she must be content with helping her father Antonius – the trainer of Rome's most popular racing team, The Greens – and teaching the rules of racing to Justus, the handsome young nephew of the Greens' wealthy owner. When her father is brutally murdered, she is forced to seek refuge with an unlikely ally. But what of her dream of Circus triumphs and being reunited with the beloved horse she left behind in Rome? And the threat to her life isn't over as she faces a powerful and terrifying new enemy... the emperor Caligula.


'Rich in period detail....this is an involving, well-characterised tale that feels original, despite having common ground with the work of Caroline Lawrence and Lauren St. John.' Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week.


'Annelise Gray has written a story that is both historically convincing and heart-stoppingly exciting. I hope there are more to come.' Gillian Cross, Carnegie Medal winning author of the Demon Headmaster series.


'This thrilling debut is the first in a new historical series full of dazzling action, rich detail, fabulous horses and an unforgettable heroine.' Fiona Noble chooses Circus Maximus: Race to the Death as One to Watch in her March previews of children's books in The Bookseller. 


'Fantastic new historical novel that I'm reading to my daughter. She's loving it. Great work, Annelise Gray.' Dan Snow, historian and broadcaster.


'I loved this adventure - full of brilliant horses, and a determined heroine following her dream against all the odds. Looking forward to discovering what's in store for them next.'  Pippa Funnell MBE, three time Olympian medallist and two-time European individual eventing champion.


'Circus Maximus swept me away to ancient Rome and I didn't want to come back. What a thrilling historical adventure!' AM Howell, author of The Garden of Lost Secrets and The House of One Hundred Clocks.


'Fast-paced, adventure-filled, heart-stopping and the most EPIC chariot races! I really loved it.'

Hannah Gold, author of the The Last Bear.


'Lovers of history, horses and heartstopping adventure will be gripped by this action-packed and fast-paced read, which will sweep you off your feet, leave you breathless and wanting to know more of the history behind the fiction.' Armadillo Magazine.


'Annelise Gray plays a blinder with her heart-pounding debut novel which brings the Roman world to life with a vibrancy and breathtaking brand of authenticity guaranteed to capture the hearts and minds of readers young and old...a thrill ride from start to finish.' The Lancashire Evening Post.


'This is an action-packed adventure that will take you on a ride. There is fast-paced drama in each chapter which keeps you gripped to the story. I love the historical element which feels authentic.' The Teacher Bookworm.


'Circus Maximus: Race to the Death is an epic adventure with a personal story at its heart...a book that both excites and engages the reader from the opening page. Hugely enjoyable, full of breathtaking action, the story hurtles the reader into a different historical world featuring, in Dido, a character who today's young readers will relate to and root for.' Anne Thompson, Library Lady blog.


'Wow! Just...Wow! I tore through this sensational middle grade debut, barely stopping to come up for air I was that gripped. This is historical fiction at its finest.' Primary Teacher Bookshelf.


'Children and adults alike will be carried away on this fast-paced, thrilling adventure. With breath-taking action and heart-stopping danger, they won't be able to put it down.' Kate Heap, Scope for Imagination.


'A gripping novel, set in ancient Rome, centred on the world of chariot racing...The story wears the historical detail lightly but very convincingly. 8+ but really just as  exciting for teens.' Five Books.


'Younger readers will be obsessed.' The Stylist Magazine, 6 Must-Read Books for Christmas.


' of my books of the year.' Andrew Rough,





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