Top critical review
He's Not Spartacus
on 22 March 2016
Increasingly, writers of adult fiction are supplementing their income by producing shorter and simpler outings for the juvenile market. This should be seen as a good thing as when great authors write books for kids, they can be fantastic offerings. Simon Scarrow is a great author at his best, but ‘Gladiator: Son of Spartacus’ is perhaps not that. Book three sees young Marcus in somewhat of a quandary, does he side with his former slave allies in rebellion, or help the man he is indebted to – a man who happens to be none other than Caesar. This leads to quite a bit of handwringing and angst.
It is here that the book feels untrue; Marcus is obviously written for the tween market and has the mentality of a teen, but perhaps of one from the 2010s and not the time of the Romans. Young people can be quite idealistic, but I feel this is a relatively modern phenomena that has been lucked into by the past few generations who no longer had to go to work by age 5. Marcus’ attitudes do no chime that well with the time in which he lives, they all feel a little soft and naïve.
This is even more noticeable when the history itself is well written. Scarrow has perfected his knowledge of the era and the story of the post-Spartacus slave tribes feels realistic, it is just Marcus’ role in them that smacks untrue. Also having someone as prominent as Caesar close to the centre does not help as his relationship with Marcus also feels unnatural. To end it all, the final action sequence is a damp squib, which is again unfortunate as there are a few solid action sequences leading up to it. Perhaps it needed to be extended to have a better finale and feel like a whole book.
For a 10-14 year old who likes action, ‘Gladiator: Son of Spartacus’ is a solid outing and they may relate to the character of Marcus, but even they will think that the ending is a little odd.