Top critical review
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on 18 August 2012
No one knows what Spartacus the man was really like. There have been suggestions that he was a savage criminal who led a bloody revolt against the Romans, but Ben Kane travels the other route, giving us a Spartacus of honour and integrity, a good man fighting for freedom and justice - a Hollywood hero.
And to a large degree Ben Kane's novel, 'Spartacus: The Gladiator' works well. Spartacus is unabashedly a glossy hero, kind to the weak, smart, resourceful and, of course, handsome. The tale sees the Thracian sold into slavery, entering the brutal world of the gladiatorial arena. Here, aided by a band of followers, he manages to cast of his manacles and lead an ever-growing band of slaves against the might of the Roman superpower.
Ben Kane possesses a keen eye for detail and the book is finely researched; generally you learn new things when reading this author. The tale rattles along at a fair pace and the simple prose allows a brevity to the slower, action-free passages. Having said that, sometimes the prose can be too simple and often strewn with cliches that seem lazy for such an enigmatic author. I found Spartacus' lover, the priestess Ariadne, a trifle irritating and tolerated more than enjoyed those sections in which she featured.
All in all, fans of the genre will enjoy this read. There is nothing too deep nor challenging here yet the pages fly by and I for one will read any subsequent sequels. I don't think Kane is quite yet in the same league as Cornwell or Iggulden, but in time I think he can match these leviathans. I hope he's not rushing his work to please his publishers, yet, alas, that is the way of things, I fear. Give this a go, anyway. It's a lot of fun.