Monday, June 4, 2012

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: Spartacus: the Gladiator by Ben Kane

Synopsis: Long the stuff of legends, Spartacus is known to most modern readers through the classic Kubrick film version of Howard Fast’s novel. Now bestselling historical novelist Ben Kane returns to the source material and presents a lively and compelling new vision of the man who was Spartacus—Roman army auxillary, slave, gladiator and ultimately the leader of an army of slaves who nearly brought Rome to its knees. 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. Jealous of his attachment to Ariadne, a Dionysian priestess, the Thracian king betrays Spartacus to the Romans who take him, along with Ariadne, into captivity and to the school of gladiators at Capua. Against the background of the unbelievable brutality of gladiatorial life, Spartacus and Crixus the Gaul plan the audacious overthrow of their Roman masters. They escape and flee to Vesuvius, where they recruit and train an army of escaped slaves that will have to face the conquerors of the known world, the most successful deadly army in all of history in a battle that will set in motion the legend that is Spartacus.

My Thoughts: I am probably one of the few people where this novel is my first foray into the legend of Spartacus.  I haven't watched the Kirk Douglas movie or the TV series and I have never read a Spartacus novel before this one.  In this book Ben Kane does a fantastic job in bringing to life the man that united slaves and common people alike to take on the mightiest army in the world.  We meet Spartacus as he is coming home to Thrace after spending several years fighting in the Roman Auxiliary.  Just because he fought on the side of the Rome does not mean he is friend to the Romans though.  His purpose in serving with the Romans is to learn all he can about their brilliant military tactics so he can build an army of his countrymen upon his return and take on Rome himself.  Spartacus finds things have changed in his absence though and  the current ruler of Thrace recognizes Spartacus as a threat and sells him to a man looking to purchase slaves for a Gladiator school.  He is accompanied by the beautiful priestess Ariadne who decides she would rather take her chances at the Gladiator school as Spartacus' wife than endure the attentions of the repugnant Thracian King.

I love characters that do not lay down in the face of defeat and Spartacus definitely fits the bill.  While most people would resign themselves to a violent death at the hands of a fellow Gladiator, Spartacus sets about to earn the respect of his fellow slaves, unite them in revolt, and even more unlikely, to keep them united to face down the Romans.  The fight scenes both in the Gladiator school and against the Roman armies were really well done and I felt completely transported into the time period while reading them.  He proves himself to be a brilliant general time and again.  Also realistically portrayed was the havoc Spartacus' army of slaves wreaked on the countryside.  This book has no shortage of blood, guts, and the horrors of war.  This book does contain profanity, violence, sex scenes, and rape so be forewarned if you are squeamish about any of these.  I also liked the supporting characters as well including Carbo- a roman citizen who joins the gladiator school when his family falls on hard times and pledges himself to Spartacus and the aforementioned Ariadne.  There are also a wealth of other warriors among Spartacus' ranks including Crixus the Gaul-a thoroughly unlikable man who challenges Spartacus for power every chance he gets, and allies Atheas and Taxacis.  I really wished to know more of these characters but I also realize that in a story with so many characters you can't give everyone their due and the book was already so large the author had to split the story into two books (the second of which is coming out later this year).

The constant reference of Ariadne as Spartacus' wife was puzzling to me since there was no formal ceremony making this so.  They just stated their intent to become man and wife and it was done.  After doing a little research, I discovered that mutual consent was really all it took to be married in the time period the book takes place.  I wish this had been explained somewhere along the line.  With the exception of Ariadne there is not an abundance of female characters in this book and what ones there are don't fare well.  This is different from what I normally read because most of the historical fiction I pick up has at least one strong female view.  That is not to say women won't enjoy this book.  If you like an underdog story and aren't bothered by the more difficult themes I mentioned above you probably won't find a more action packed and exciting portrayal of the Spartacus story than this one.   Admittedly, little bothers me enough to keep me from reading a good book and I enjoyed this one quite a lot.  Consider me a new fan of Ben Kane's writing. I can't wait for the continuation of Spartacus' story in the next installment!


 This book was provided to me for review for participation in the author's tour with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.

And now for the giveaway!  Up for grabs is the winner's choice of 1 paper or 1 eBook copy of Spartacus: the Gladiator.

Giveaway is open to: US/CAN

To enter: Leave your name and email address in the comments.  One extra entry each will given for spreading the word about the giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.

Giveaway ends: Midnight on June 14th.  Winner will be announced June 15th.

 For more reviews and giveaways, and interviews/guest posts with author Ben Kane you can view the schedule for the rest of the tour HERE.

About the author: 

Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. He drove around the USA in a camper van, trekked the Inca trail and took a ship to Antarctica. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.

While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fuelled by visits to Hadrian’s Wall. He naively decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs – being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time.

To find out more about Ben and his books visit: www.benkane.net
You can also find him on Twitter: @benkaneauthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/benkanebooks

29 comments:

  1. I have been fascinated by Spartacus since seeing the Kirk Douglas movie over 50 years ago. I would love to read this novel. Thanks for the giveaway.
    lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

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  2. I will admit to watching the HBO Series, not that it is all that accurate about the true Spartacus, but its a good watch every now and then,
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    allisonmharper@hotmail.com

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  3. Good luck to you both!
    @Allison: the new TV series isn't that accurate, no, but it's great entertainment. I have tried to stick exactly to what's known in my book.
    Best wishes

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  4. @Holly: Thanks for the great review, and I'm delighted you enjoyed the book!

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  5. Thanks so much for taking part in the tour. I am so glad you enjoyed Spartacus!!

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  6. I would really like to read this book. I watched the Starz series and fell in love! April Prescott kaligirl_03@yahoo.com

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  7. Great review, I am reading this one now myself and enjoying it. Like you, I haven't seen the Kirk Douglas movie.

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  8. I haven't seen the Kirk Douglas movie in many years. It may well be time for another take on the Spartacus legend. Thanks for bringing it to us.

    Name and email: Carl Scott carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

    For an extra entry in the draw I tweeted this link to the blog post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/209767181171437568

    Thanks!

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  9. I'm a Spartacus fan who is ready, willing and able to read anything about Spartacus. I also did watch the series. It was huge fun.

    My e-mail is JDChronicler@aol.com.

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  10. Great review! I'm looking forward to reading this one. No need to enter me into the draw as I already have the book.

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  11. Great reviews, I would love to read this book.
    readingwithmargaret@gmail.com

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  12. I've always thought the Spartacus story was such a good one. I'd love to read this!

    -shared on fb
    -tweeted on twitter

    Margaret (Literary Chanteuse)
    singitm(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  13. I have The Forgotten Legion queued up on my ipad and can't wait to read it. I'd love to read Spartacus also.
    susan at susancoventry dot com

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  14. Melissa Smith
    melissa.junk80@gmail.com

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  15. Thanks, Susan - I hope you enjoy it. Good luck to you, and to Melissa as well!

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  16. I'm looking forward to this read!
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

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  17. Sounds good! jbsmunky at aol dot com

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  18. Keep those entries coming, everyone!

    Over the next week, I'm running a giveaway competition on Twitter too: @benkaneauthor

    See you there.

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  19. Book looks great. Thanks.
    magic5905 at embarqmail dot com

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  20. g bailey
    ceis8009 at yahoo dot com

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  21. https://www.facebook.com/gloria.bailey.10/posts/10150885796949671
    ceis8009 at yahoo dot com

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  22. https://twitter.com/emptynesterintx/status/211496317078355968
    ceis8009 at yahoo dot com

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  23. I would love to read this book. I have been following the series on TV, but I think this book would give me a better understanding of what really happened. Thanks for having this giveaway.
    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

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  24. Thanks for this! Veronica W.
    roniwalker7(at)gmail(dot)com

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  25. Thanks for the giveaway !
    Angy Chang
    songo_ac@hotmail.com

    shared on facebook:
    http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=283170361780934&id=838869653

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  26. My husband is a truck driver and I'm always looking for books he'd like to read while waiting for loads. He'd love this! momlovesdeals at gmail dot com

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  27. Good luck again, everyone! I also do regular giveaways of my books on Twitter @benkaneauthor or on my site benkane.net Just gave away 6 paperbacks of the UK edition of Spartacus today. Feel free to enter there when the next one is on!

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