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Sand of the Arena: A Gladiators of the Empire Novel (The Gladiators of the Empire Novels)
 
 

Sand of the Arena: A Gladiators of the Empire Novel (The Gladiators of the Empire Novels) [Kindle Edition]

James Duffy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Review

"Duffy recreates in gory detail the world of Roman gladiators, complete with larger-than-life characters and plenty of fast-paced, sanguinary action... [an] entertaining read." -- Publishers Weekly "Duffy combines a sure sense of character and narrative with an intimate knowledge of the world of the Roman arena... an exciting and satisfying novel." --John Maddox Roberts, author of the SPQR series "Well researched and exciting." -- Library Journal

Product Description

In AD 63 the long arm of the Roman Empire stretches across the European continent and the gladiatorial games are awash in blood and glory. For Quintus Honorius Romanus, son of one of the richest men in Rome, everything is as it should be—as long as he can sneak off to the arena for a little entertainment. Things go drastically wrong, however, when Quintus loses his family, his social standing, and his name to an imposter. Faced with a life of menial slavery, Quintus joins a gladiatorial school instead and begins a game of high stakes, as he vows to bring down the usurper who stole his life.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1177 KB
  • Print Length: 420 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 159013124X
  • Publisher: McBooks Press (1 Oct 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0040ZNFB2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #435,303 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Just Love Books on Ancient Rome 6 Jun 2007
By J. Chippindale TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I guess I am a bit of a sucker for novels on Ancient Rome so I was delighted when I found what was for me a new author who writes on that particular subject. This is the first book in the Gladiators of the Empire series. It is not the best book I have ever read, but then I did not expect it to be.

The book is a fictional look at life through the eyes of a gladiator. The awe of being in such a magnificent building as the Flavian amphitheatre, or as it is better know the Colosseum. The fear and excitement of fighting another human being with real weapons after the weeks and weeks of training that have gone on in gladiatorial school.

The book held my interest from beginning to end and what more can one ask for. I know that the author has written another book that I am looking forward to reading and I hope that he comes up with many more.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting.... 14 Oct 2008
By H. T. Davies VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Quite well written and certainly readable and entertaining, if a bit far-fetched. The idea of a kung-fu type character wondering the streets of Gloucester in AD 63 is hard to swallow but just about plausible given the theories of what happened to Crassus' hapless army.

The basic plot is classic for just about every gladiator novel I've ever read (except for the Shakespearian twist at the beginning)- slave fights to top while finding inner strengths. If you don't know anything about Rome and gladiators there are worse places to start and if you do you can skip some of the sections explaining gladiatorial styles etc.

A bit OTT but great mindless reading for a summer's afternoon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars WRITING STYLE GROWS UP AS DOES THE GLADIATOR 12 Sep 2011
By kk kent
Format:Paperback
a rollicking good read this book
my main reading matirial of late has been ancient roman novels, but his one tends to stand out from the crowd for maybe the wrong reasons , but the book is most enjoyable
If you can Imagine mathew reilly rewriting simon scarrow then your half way there to the style this has been written in

I must admit at first I thought the writing was rather Harry Potter and the Ludus was some kind of Hogwarts , but as the main charactor grows up so does the writing style, indeed as the fight action hots up so does the adult content
I admit we have the appearence of the kung fu master in the city of bath seems a bit unreal , but who knows !!
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review 2 April 2010
By Buddy M
Format:Paperback
Not had a chance to read this book yet but it arrived on time and in excellent condition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting read from a writer who knows his stuff 29 May 2006
By Colin P. Lindsey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Quintus Honorius Romanus, a 15 year old young man who is an avid fan of the gladiatorial matches in ancient Rome, realizes his dream of becoming a gladiator when a calamitous shipwreck takes the lives of his successful merchant parents and an unscrupulous slave usurps his identity. This story, set in the Roman Empire from the period of 63 AD to 67 AD during the reign of Nero, is bracketed between the revolt of Boudicca and Galba's bid for emperorship.

The novel has a number of things going for it including good writing and characterization, an interesting time period, the fact it is fiction based on ancient Rome, and an author who is obviously expert on the lives, training, and experiences of the ancient gladiators. He corrects a number of mistaken impressions left from the Hollywood treatments like Spartacus, and tells a riveting good tale while doing so. I was very impressed with the book and the scholarship which underpins the story-telling.

If I had any quibbles it would be that the book, while reasonably realistic in many ways, could have benefitted from an even grittier realism. The protagonist benefits from an oriental martial artist, self-devises a weight training regimen similar to what you see today, becomes famous on the basis of two matches, ends up being one of the top gladiators of the period while he is still nineteen, and makes a few friends who seem a little to good to be true. I'd also have liked the story progression to have been influenced by world events such as Boudicca's revolt or the coming crises of emperors, but if the auhtor writes a sequel, as seems likely from the dust cover, then that should be present in future novels.

Other than my personal preference in wishing for a slightly more realistic development of the protagonist and a tale impacted by the major events of the time, I have to say this is a very good book and a really enjoyable read. I banged it out over two days this weekend and enjoyed myself immensely because the author does a fantastic job of describing the training of the gladiators and an even more impressive job in describing the gladiator matches themselves. If you want an enjoyable trip to the past of Rome, an immersive experience in the life of a gladiator, and some of the most rousing fight scenes I've read then you will really enjoy this book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A VERY GOOD BOOK 18 Nov 2005
By Ancona613 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A series about gladiators fills the niche between all the Roman mystery series (Steven Saylor, John Maddox Roberts, etc.) and the Roman legion series (Simon Scarrow, Michael Curtis Ford, etc.). This book is well researched with lots of action, both in and out of the arena, but the action doesn't overshadow the characters and their relationship with each other.

One interesting point is the inclusion of a female gladiator among the principal characters. Some may find the idea a bit far-fetched, but there actually were women gladiators! As a female reader, the addition of "Amazonia" lent a welcomed woman's point of view to certain parts of the story plus added some interesting tension among the fighters. The scene with her in the latrine on her first day at the gladiator school is classic.

I gave it 4 stars rather than 5 due to the particularly violent scene of the crucifixion of an innocent slave, which disturbed me. But overall, A VERY GOOD BOOK.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally! A Novel About Gladiators!!! 9 Nov 2005
By creaturerevenge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I've been searching for a long time for a book that focused on the world of gladiators. So often, arena fighters are just cardboard background figures in an ancient mystery or political novel. Well, not this book! The spotlight here is on the life (and death) of a group of gladiators from Britannia and Pompeii. The arena action is incredible and the vivid descriptions of thier lifestyle and training seems totally authentic. The main characters are colorful and interesting, especially the hero Quintus ("Taurus" in the arena). His growth from scrawny teen to one of the most popular gladiators in Rome seems to parallel a lot of todays sports heroes. Highly recommended, not only for fans of the Roman Empire, but for anyone who likes a fast paced, action-packed read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blood, sex and the fighting life in Ancient Rome 19 Feb 2007
By Rebecca Huston - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What is it about gladiators that seem to make authors want to put them in nearly every novel set in Ancient Rome of late? Maybe it's one of those latent teenage fantasies where you get to whallop the hell out of your enemy, and have the men or women of your choice lusting after you? Let's face it, the warrors in the arena were the NFL players of their day.

Former screenwriter James Duffy has taken a tale of a young teenager born into a good family, and tricked into slavery, and who finds his way into the gladiatorial schools. Quintus Honorius Romanus, life is gold. Born into a patrician family, and living in the heart of Rome during the rule of Nero, he is looking forward to a future full of possibilities. He evades his loving mother whenever possible to slip off to the arena to watch the gladiatorial combats, following the fighting with a keen interest and plenty of excitement. His father sometimes sneaks off with him as well, and we get to see them in the opening pages of the novel, enjoying a rare naval battle, where the arena would be flooded and ships launched to recreate famous battles.

In fact, there's only one problem in Quintus' life -- Lucius, a slave in his family's household who's evil tempered, and jealous, and is bold enough to pick fights with him. It's enough to make the family decide to pack him off to distant relations in Britannia where he'll be less of a nuisance when the family there to deliever a large and valuable shipment of goods. But when a shipwreck leaves only Lucius and Quintus as survivors on Britain's coast, Lucius takes a bold step and it's Quintus who is the slave now...

It's a hard life for Quintus, but he decides to take a daring step and runs away to join a ludus, a training school for gladiators, and we get to follow along as he learns the intricate rituals of the arena, and the skills needed to survive as a gladitor. As Taurus, Quintus finds his own niche in life, enjoying the power he has over the crowds, and finding friends among the other killers in the school, both among the trainers and a young African hunter, Lindani, who is a ventore or hunter.

But he hasn't forgotten about the treacherous Lucius, and vows that one day he will avenge his family and himself. How he gets from here to there is what makes the story interesting, at least from a fighting perspective.

But there are some serious problems with this novel. When I was a few chapters in, I figured out where the plot was going, I mentally groaned and thought this was going to turn out to be another <a href="[...]">Liberty,</a> a very bad novel focused on a woman gladiator. And Sand of the Arena is rather close to the other novel in subject, action and scope.

But the difference lays in Duffy's skill as a screenwriter. The action sequences and life in the fighting schools is fairly well done, full of vigor and excitement. But once he shifts the focus to the revenge story, or tries to tell it from Lucius' viewpoint, the writing turns to mawkish tripe. It's boring, and not that stirring. The other large fault is found in that all of the characters is that they are rather one note in depth -- Lucius is nasty and mean, Aunt Julia is most a pin-up fantasy, Lindari is the courageous second fiddle to Quintus' overwrought testosterone, Amazonia - a woman gladiator -- is trying to out-macho the guys and waves her bosom around, and so one. Everyone is either insufferably good, or out and out bad, and that doesn't make for interesting characters.

But where this does succeed is when Duffy focuses on the actual fighting, training and lifestyle of the gladiators. Duffy researchs the various fighter types, the rigid lifestyle and imparts little snippets about life in the arena, whether it's combat between man and man, or man against beast. Along the way he also dispells some of the myths about gladiator life, mostly gleaned from Hollywood -- most gladiators were not killed at the end of the bouts, being that their training and maintenance were too high for a casual killing -- it would be equivalent to executing the loosing side in a pro football game. Too, Duffy sought out modern day reinactors of gladitorial combat, and evidently listened and watched while they filled him in on the skills and fights -- it's here where the novel gets good.

But there were a few bits and twists that had me wonderings. One was Lucius -- I could never see a slave getting away with attacking a free member of the household over the breakfast table without a crucifixion in the future. The other was the tatooes or stigmatae that Quintus gets put on his chest and back; it's troublesome to find out if Romans used tattoos as body ornaments, as most burials were cremations. The final problem I had was the constant sex in the arena stands, and with patrician couples indulging in orgies -- yes, there is a historical record for that, but it's regarded as a not very Roman thing to do, at least for well-born women.

Other than that, this novel reads more like a modified movie script. It's exciting, certainly, and better than most novels set in the period, without excessive moralizing about how decadent Ancient Rome was, but it's also a very predictable novel. As long as the hero is out slugging the stuffing out of his opponent in the arena, it's fine -- but anything else and it flounders.

Duffy did include several drawings on the endpapers of various gladiator types rigged out in fighting gear, a very nice touch. There is also an introduction, where he credits the people who helped him with the research and gives websites to find some of those combat reinactors here in the United States.

There is a second novel in the works, titled The Fight For Rome, due in September 2007 in hardback which continues the story of Quintus and his friends.

Somewhat recommended, probably four stars if you really enjoy this topic. But Colleen McCullough's novels are still better than this.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A promising start to the series 14 Dec 2006
By Graeme Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author has written a very aborbing tale (first of a series). His ability to have you either love or hate his characters is cleverly done. Lucius the 15 year old slave boy with the rebellious attitude and hate of his masters is very well portrayed. You hate him from the beginning. When the main character - the 15 year old Quintus Honorius Romanus (son of Lucius's master) embarks with his family and slaves for a business trip to Brittania to visit his aunt/uncle he could never forsee the turn of events that lay ahead. The plot twists early on and in the ensuing tragedy that follows off the coast one stormy night, Lucius salvages something from the wreck that turns Quintus life upside down.

The use of identity theft in the plot is pivotal to the stories direction where even blood relatives can be less trusted then your worst enemy in pursuit of their ambitions.

Quintus though has two burning ambitions. One is to seek fame as a gladiator which he always had from his happier days attending the games with his father. The other is to gain revenge on Lucius who is masquerading as him with a level of cunning and style Quintus can't believe.

The story has its plot holes. The idea of the gladiator Quintus stumbling across an oriental gentleman imparting tai chi type moves and meditation techniques in a Roman bath house is a little bit of a stretch. Albeit this is a brief diversion within the story but it is 1st C AD and not exactly a time you would expect to find an oriental tourist in Britain. Thats not to suggest via Parthia in the East that some interaction (trade/politics/curiousity) did not occur between the two cultures at some time during the Roman Empire as evidence reveals there more than likely was. The idea also that one of high breeding would prefer to seek a life as a gladiator (no questions) as opposed to seek out the people in high places (Rome) who can verify you as the real Quintus and heir to your parents fortune from your imposter slave is another. Afterall wouldnt turning the imposter back into a slave and possibly a crucified one be the quickest way to revenge?

However forgiving those minor abberations its a very entertaining book and a highly recommended read especially for those who like their stories with a lot of energy and pace but which still remain true to the times it was set in.

As Petra the head of Quintus's Ludis (Gladiator school) would say: "What are you waiting for ladies- get to it?!"
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