In this second volume of Ben Kane’s Spartacus duology (read my review of the first), Spartacus has already been acknowledged as a serious threat to the Roman people. While he and his pregnant wife Ariadne are keen to return his army to Thrace and re-take his homeland, his army, made up of slaves from across the empire, is more interested in plundering Rome’s heartland and establishing a base where the land is rich. Spartacus has to choose whether to retake his homeland, but lose his army in the process, or stay in Rome and attempt to subvert the incredible power of the Roman state.
As with Spartacus: The Gladiator, Ben Kane delivers an action-paced historical fiction novel with Spartacus: Rebellion. Their release relatively close together means that we can seamlessly pick up the story from one to the other, and that’s really the way these books are meant to be read. They are two halves of one story that really belongs in one, and neither book will really stand alone particularly well without the other, especially not this one. It picks up right after the events of the first book and all of the tensions between the characters already exist and intensify over the course of the book.
This might come as a surprise to you, but I actually didn’t know what happened to Spartacus at the end of the book. I won’t spoil it, but this made the book far more gripping than normal historical fiction fare is. Spartacus and all of the people around him really do have to fight for their lives, as the Roman state out in force is determined to kill them and eradicate any threat that they represent to the orderly Roman way of life, slaves and all. It made for a surprisingly exciting book, and I really enjoyed feeling like I had no idea what was going to happen next.
As I’ve mentioned for the previous book in this set of two, Ben Kane writes historical fiction in what I tend to call the “gritty” way. There is no court here, no fancy trappings or much political intrigue; there is battle, and blood, and death, and deception. It’s a refreshing change when you read quite a bit of historical fiction focused on royalty and the people at the top, and though Spartacus is certainly a leader of his men, he doesn’t get puffed up with ego and remains very much an inspiring character, for both the men in the book and for the reader.
This duology is an excellent choice for anyone who prefers the “grittier” historical fiction with all of the violence that entails, or those who are interested in fiction set during the Roman Republic. Definitely recommended.
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