Ben Kane’s second book on the slave leader, Spartacus does not disappoint.
Kane uses what little (very little) is known about Spartacus to piece together and imagine a gripping story of the man and his troops.
Historical fiction always faces the problem that the reader knows the outcome. Writers in this genre cannot rely on twisting plots to entertain the reader and must use character rather than plot to make the story come alive. Kane does a great job keeping the reader interested in a story that we all know ends poorly for the Hero.
Kane builds relationships between Spartacus and his men– both his loyal followers and the men who might not have been quite so loyal.
And, I was pleasantly surprised to find his battle scene writing to be truly gripping. As a woman, I tend to get a bit bored during battle scenes. It’s one of the things I did not like in Bernard Cornwell’s books. But, I loved Kane’s approach! He immerses the reader in the battle through the eyes of one of the key characters, Carbo. This is great because I was expecting that we’d see it through Spartacus’ point of view. I could truly tell there was a great outpouring of emotion as Kane wrote. Blood, pain, excitement seeped through the final pages.
I also like the through nature of Kane’s writing about the Roman period. He’s afterward and glossary are a welcome edition to the book.
I would recommend this book and thought it was even better than his first one!
Spartacus: The Gladiator by Ben Kane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the first in a series of novel by Ben Kane about the famous gladiatorial slave and warrior. Like most people I’ve seen and enjoyed the 1960’s film about the slave turned rebel. I’ve also enjoyed the recent Stars TV series. And, just so you know my Spartacus knowledge is NOT exclusively limited to popular culture portrayal. I have read The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss.
Armed with my own ideas of Spartacus, I started Kane’s novel. My previous reading left me with the impression that the known historical information about Spartacus is limited. He’s from Thrace, served in the Roman Legion before his enslavement and somehow ended up in Capua as a gladiatorial slave. He had limited successes in launching a slave revolt and dealt Rome some embarrassing defeats. That is until Rome’s wealthiest man and later member of the 1st triumvirate with none other than old Julius Caesar himself!!!
This makes Spartacus a wonderful subject for a historical fiction novel. Enough of a skeleton to have something to work with, but plenty of opportunity to build an interesting character.
So how does Kane do?
In book one, not too poorly. Be prepared for lots of fight scenes and pretty brutal rape and pillaging sections. It’s war and its not for the faint of heart.
I like that Spartacus is cast as a Prince of Thrace thrown out and sold into slavery. I also think the love interest is well done.. As for the early part of their relationship, it’s a little goofy. Really? A saved damsel in distress… But their ‘romance’ gets better as the story moves.
The Crixus character and relationship is as expected. I’d like to see a historical novel from Crixus’ point of view.
I also enjoy Crassus. He’s simply so unrelentlying a power hungry, money hungry stereotypical Roman you have to love him!
The writing is fine. Not overly amazing, but good.
I am ready to move on the next Spartacus novel in series. So, I’ll let you know how it develops. I am hoping for more Crassus time!
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