Spartacus is a spectacle of a man for many reasons. Partially because little is known of his background, partially because what is known is that of great battles and epic quests, the man has a history that would rival that of any hero in any classic adventure story. Ben Kane takes this fact and runs with it in Spartacus the Gladiator, creating the first of two parts of an epic tale that chronicles the life and times of this amazing man.
We begin in a Thracian village, meeting Spartacus after he has escaped servitude in the Roman army. Although he has escaped trouble or capture for the moment, it is not for long, as he soon attracts the attention of the Thracian king via his attentions to a Dionysian priestess named Ariadne whom the king favors. Jealous of Ariadne’s obvious attraction to Spartacus rather than himself, the king betrays Spartacus to the Romans, who take him (and Ariadne as well) prisoner. They are taken to land known as Capua, a horrific place where men learn to become gladiators and fight for the Roman empire. Forced into this program, Spartacus befriends a man known as Crixus the Gaul and together they hatch a plot to undermine those in power and escape. They are successful, and travel to Vesuvius, where they build a massive following of mainly slaves that they train into a large army. As the head of this army, Spartacus leads it into an epic battle against the formidable (and much larger) Roman army. What Spartacus’ men lack in numbers they make up for with will and pure determination. Will that be enough to stop the oncoming Roman empire?
Personally, I believe the best kind of historical fiction novel is one you can completely lose yourself in, forgetting completely that you’re actively learning history. They take you to a time and place far away from the one you’re currently in, and make you feel as though you’re a part of the adventure. Spartacus: The Gladiator is one of those books. Kane does an outstanding job of setting up the time and place, transporting the reader to the first century in a big way.
I had a great time reading this novel. The novel is filled with action and adventure (both things I love), and is told with conviction via strong characterizations. The novel has a powerful story to tell and Kane weaves it beautifully Once I started reading Spartacus’ story, it was so enticing that it was impossible for me to put it down. It is definitely a page turner in every sense of the phrase. His vision of who Spartacus was has made me so much more curious about his life that I now want to go out and read everything I possibly can about him!
For those that choose to read this novel, be aware that there is strong language and sexual violence in the novel. Although this didn’t bother me, some readers prefer to know this information up front. That being said, I highly recommend checking Spartacus: The Gladiator out. It’s a true action packed historical fiction novel that will have you on the edge of your seat.
(FYI – This would make a great Father’s Day gift!)
4 out of 5 Stars
Spartacus: The Gladiator by Ben Kane
St. Martin’s Press (2012)
Hardcover: 480 pages
Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for our review copy!
One lucky person will have the opportunity to win their own copy of Spartacus: The Gladiator by Ben Kane. Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Giveaway open to residents of US and Canada. Winner will receive their choice of either an eBook or paperback version. Good luck to all!