Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blog Tour: Spartacus: The Gladiator by Ben Kane

Things have been quite hectic for me with school winding down, as a result I've found it difficult to keep up with blogging.  I did have some obligations for book reviews so I recruited my aunt Kathryn to help me out.  So this book review is done by her and if you enjoy it, I will have her review a few more.  Without further ado, here is the review:

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publishing Date: June 5th, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 480 pgs
ISBN: 9781250001160

Source: copy given for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
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.

It's not easy to write an exciting book about a character when most people already know how things turn out, so Ben Kane doesn't depend on cliffhangers.  His new novel, Spartacus the Gladiator, grabs you simply because Kane is so uncompromisingly real aobut what happens on the human level when brutal violence is power's casualty, daily instrument.

The plot turns on historical fact and, where facts are lacking, educated surmise. The almost academic clarity and detail of the information on the social organization of the ancient world alternates with shockingling accurate scenes that turn those distant facts into messy, viseral reality: rape, slavery, maiming, extortion, casual murder, and calculated challenges to the death with heavy, sharp weapons.

Don't expect the kind of leavening humour in Spartacus that you'll find in one of Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels, either.  There's nothing the least humourous in these peoples' problems.  Life at the time of Spartacus was generally nasty, brutish and short.  There were no social safety nets, and few places to hide.

There were warrior codes of nobility and Kane draws on that to a very large degree.  The real Spartacus probably wasn't given much choice about what happened when he was made a slave, or what options were available to him thereafter, and I don't expect he was any less brutal or opportunistic in his thinking than the world he lived in.  He was intelligent, brave, and an exceptional fighter who used guerilla bravado and cunning.  Surely that's enough for any hero.  I'm not certain he also needs to be a tender, patient love, and loyal friend with social conscience, who dreams of peace.  I'm sure that Spartacus was a hell of a man. He certainly gave imperial Rome a run for its money, but it might have helped the novel if Kane had gone for a bit less Hollywood. 

The publishers have been kind enough to offer a giveaway for this novel.  Please enter below and don't forget to leave your e-mail address!  
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  1. From way back in my childhood, my favorite is still The Count of Monte Cristo.

    Is there a way to subscribe to your blog by email? I'd like to get your posts in my mailbox as they are posted.

  2. Thanks to your Aunt Kathryn for her review and taking part in the tour. I'm so glad she enjoyed the book.

  3. Thanks for the review, and for posting it on your blog!
    Best wishes.