Review: Spartacus: The Gladiator by Ben Kane
Author: Ben Kane
Publisher: Random House UK
Publication Date: February 20, 2012
Hardcover, 448 pages
ISBN: 1848093403 (ISBN13: 9781848093409)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: From Publisher
The first of two epic novels which tell the story of one of the most charismatic heroes history has ever known -- Spartacus, the gladiator slave who took on and nearly defeated the might of Rome, during the years 73-71 BC.
In historical terms we know very little about Spartacus the man -- partly because most contemporary Roman historians were keen to obliterate his memory and prevent him from attaining mythic status. This of course is grist to the novelist's mill. Ben Kane's brilliant novel begins in the Thracian village to which Spartacus has returned, after escaping from life as an auxiliary in the Roman army. But here he quickly falls foul of his overlord, the Thracian king, who has set his heart on Dionysian priestess, Ariadne -- later to become wife of Spartacus. Betrayed again to the Romans by his jealous king, Spartacus -- and with him Ariadne -- are taken in captivity to the school of gladiators at Capua. It is here -- against the unbelievable brutality of gladiatorial life -- that Spartacus and Crixus the Gaul plan the audacious overthrow of their Roman masters, escaping to Vesuvius, where they recruit and train a huge slave army -- an army which will keep the might of Rome at bay for two years and create one of the most extraordinary legends in history. Spartacus: The Gladiator takes the story up to the moment when the slave army has inflicted its first great defeat on Rome.
What can I say about Spartacus the Gladiator but “WOW!” It is a gripping, gritty, loving, violent, graphic tale of one man that single-handedly led a rebellion that almost toppled the Roman Empire. The story begins with the return to Thrace of our protagonist. He finds things in complete disarray and is unceremoniously sold to a traveling slave trader looking for new combatants for the arena. This is where the story really takes off. I don’t want to go into anymore detail for fear of giving something away.
The characters are very well written. While Spartacus is one of the most rock-solid and unchanging characters, he does grow in his leadership of his men and in his relationship with Ariadne. My favorite character is Carbo, the Roman boy that joins the ludus, a training school for gladiators, voluntarily. He begins the story as a spoiled brat but is a capable and dependable member of Spartacus’ army by the end. Crixus the Gaul is a perfect antithesis or anti-hero within the ranks to Spartacus.
The writing and story telling are mesmerizing. It is thrilling at times and sweet and loving at others. It is violent in places and light-hearted and funny in some. It is a wonderful balance of historical accuracy and conjecture of thoughts and feelings. I must say the story left me wanting much more. I did not want it to end; I wanted to know more and cannot wait to read the next installment about Spartacus from Ben Kane.
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