With the launch of the Starz cable series, Spartacus, in 2010, and the HBO series Rome a few years back, ancient Rome is "hot" again, and it's not surprising to see a new treatment of the celebrated story of Spartacus in novel form. For those not familiar with the earlier Howard Fast novel or the 1960 Kirk Douglas film of the same name (based on the Fast novel), Spartacus is the true story of a former gladiator and slave who leads a slave revolt against the mighty Roman empire.
Ben Kane, an Irish author who has written extensively about ancient Rome and is particularly enamored of military history, returns to the original sources to reimagine Spartacus' life and leadership. But as Kane admits in an afterword, there's little written by the Roman historians about Spartacus and his revolt, which held off Roman troops for an astonishing two years, perhaps because Roman historians did not take kindly to eulogizing their enemies, particularly a lowly slave who bested them in battle after battle. Of course this lack of concrete facts gives the novelist plenty of room to imagine Spartacus and the other characters in the book.
The book opens with Spartacus returning to his native Thracian village after serving in the Roman army for many years. But it's not the happy homecoming he'd hoped for; after trying to overthrow the tribal king, he is betrayed and sent in captivity to be trained as a gladiator, to fight to the death for the amusement of the Roman crowds in the Colosseum. Accompanying him is Ariadne, a priestess of Dionysus, who will later become Spartacus' wife. But Spartacus won't accept his fate, and soon is planning an escape from the gladiator school, turning into a charismatic leader who soon is leading a revolt of a rag-tag group of slaves against the might of the Roman army, the greatest in the world. Will he be able to succeed in keeping the Romans at bay or will they eventually quash his revolt against their tyranny? We won't find out in this volume, since a sequel is in the works. Readers will have to wait to see how Kane completes this compelling tale.
While published for an adult audience, this David vs. Goliath story is an engrossing read for teens as well, although parents should know that there is substantial violence, cursing, and sexual situations depicted. With the action-filled scenes at the gladiator school, and the battles against the Romans, it's likely to particularly appeal to teenage boys who enjoy war stories. I particularly appreciated how the author explores Spartacus' leadership ability; for example, in order to escape from the gladiator school, he must unite gladiators from different countries with different allegiances, not an easy task in the best of conditions. While there is plenty of violence, it's not gratuitous, since the violence is integral to the storyline.
To sample this book, you can check out the first chapter of this novel is available at the author's website.
If you are interested in winning a copy of this book for yourself or your library, please leave a comment below and include an e-mail. I will be selecting a winner at random on June 13.
To read more about Spartacus the Gladiator, check out the following blog tour stops that are coming up throughout the month of June:
Joy Story June 7
A Novel Affair June 8
Alternate Readality June 10
Book Spark June 12
OKBoLover June 13
To Read or Not to Read June 14
Celtic Lady Reviews June 15
Bookworm June 16
WV Stitcher June 17
Book Nook Club June 18
Luxury Reading June 20
The Wormhole June 20
Broken Teepee June 21
Ink Spots and Roses None
Feeling a Little Bookish June 22
Fresh-scraped Vellum June 23
Layers of Thought June 24
Words and Peace June 25
J.A. Beard's Unnecessary Musings June 26
Book Drunkard June 28
Book Faery June 29Starting Fresh June 30
Note: Review copy provided by publisher.