Review by John for: Spartacus: The Gladiator ~ by Ben Kane
A “sword-and-sandal” action thriller based on the quite amazing true story of Spartacus – the iconic gladiator who led a slave army against the might of Rome.
About: When Spartacus returned from his stint as a Roman army auxiliary to his home in Thracia (now in modern-day Bulgaria), he was betrayed by a local leader and sold into slavery, along with Ariadne – a Dionysian priestess who was to become his wife.
Spartacus was taken to a gladiator school, where he was just as likely to fall prey to factions within the trainee gladiators as he was to suffer in the arena or at the hands of his Roman masters. But the tough and clever Thracian starts to thrive in the brutal environment and builds both a reputation for himself and a hard core of followers.
His followers are far outnumbered by the fractious Gauls, but he manages to build some sort of relationship with the various Gaul leaders, and together they hatch a plan to break out of the gladiator school and escape from their Roman masters. Though many die in the attempt, the gladiators do escape and flee into the Roman countryside.
Spartacus’ military and personal leadership skills now flourish, as the gladiators audaciously succeed in defeating increasingly serious attempts by the Romans to quell the uprising; and the more they succeed against the Romans, the more slaves flock to join the forces led by Spartacus.
Rome is now desperate to crush the rebellion and gathers a huge army. As Spartacus strives to train the slaves and to stay one step ahead of the pursuing Roman army, his even bigger challenge becomes trying to keep the fractious Gaul leaders in line. As a final showdown looms, he remains unsure who he can trust.
John’s thoughts: This was a fun, exciting (and gruesome) read, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that much of the underlying story is actually true. The plot is like something dreamt up by a Hollywood screenwriter, but Spartacus was a real person in history and Ben Kane has stayed close to the basic facts that are known about the gladiator and the uprising that he led. Of course Kane does embellish the story and the people, and fleshes out Spartacus so that he becomes a real person rather than just an icon. However, when I started to do a big of Google-ing I found that even some of the more audacious exploits appear to be based on facts. Some real history truly is amazing.
I liked the color and the detail that Kane developed when describing life in Rome. This is not some airbrushed picture of a great empire; rather it is a depiction of the messy, dirty, brutal, squalid life led by the great majority of people who lived during those times. I also liked that Spartacus was not depicted as some type of superhuman – tough and a brilliant leader for sure, but he also had weaknesses.
What’s not to like? Well, when I decided to read the book I didn’t realize that it was the first in a two-part story, so you don’t get to read about how it all ends up – you have to wait a while for that. It’s not that the book has a bad ending, but it is obvious that there is much more to come. I’m not big on reading book series, so that was a bit of a bummer.
Apart from that, it was a good and enjoyable read and I blew through it pretty quickly. It’s one of those where you keep picking it up and reading a few more pages even if you hadn’t intended doing so. If you want some easy reading on the Roman empire and want to hear more about one of the most amazing characters in history – give this a go. I rate it four stars.
About Ben Kane: Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. He drove around the USA in a camper van, trekked the Inca trail and took a ship to Antarctica. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.
While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fueled by visits to Hadrian’s Wall. He naïvely decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs – being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time. www.benkane.net; You can also find him on Twitter: @benkaneauthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/benkanebooks
This review is part of tour, for other reviews, interviews and more link to Ben Kane’s Spartacus tour page via the badge below.