After reading Ben Kane's Hannibal: Enemy of Rome
I knew that Spartacus would be in safe hands. One of the most familiar figures from Classical history (not to mention Hollywood), one could be excused for thinking that there is nothing left to add to the legend. But Ben Kane has completely disproved that thought. Spartacus: The Gladiator focuses on the fall and rise of Spartacus, following his betrayal and enslavement, his training as a gladiator in Capua and his escape, culminating with his emergence as a threat that Rome can no longer dismiss and ridicule as the barbaric leader of a disorganised rabble of slaves.
While Spartacus dominates the heart of this novel, I was particularly interested by the stories of the men and women who follow and oppose him, including his wife Ariadne, a priestess of Dionusys, Crixus, a fellow gladiator and escapee yet also a rival, Carbo, a young, disillusioned Roman aristocrat, and Crassus in Rome who watches in disbelief. Just as with Hannibal, the stories involve us in both sides of the legend, that of the winners and the losers, and set it within a much broader context. The action is fierce and fast but through the wealth of characters, from every corner of the known Roman world, we get a real feel for the time and place. I found the story of Carbo especially fascinating. Spartacus himself is not just a hero, though. Here he is also a friend, husband and enemy. I can't wait for the second book, to see how Spartacus and the people around him deal with what they have to face.
Ben Kane writes so well, putting the heart into his characters as well as action onto the page. He is one of the finest authors of historical fiction writing today and Spartacus: The Gladiator may well be his best yet.