Gladiator: Fight for Freedom by Simon Scarrow (February 2011, Puffin, ISBN: 0141333634)
Notes: The following review is written by Amanda Gillies who reviews crime fiction on my Euro Crime website. You can read her crime reviews here and her YA reviews here.
Review: Gladiator is the first in a new series for boys and came out in hardback this month. It is a fabulous story, full of courage and heartache, and centres on the life of Marcus, a young boy who is one minute living very happily with his family on their farm, then suddenly has everything taken from him and winds up alone, in slavery.
Set in Roman times, before Julius Ceasar is made emperor and just after the slave uprising, led by the infamous Spartacus. Marcus’s father, Titus, has retired from being a centurion in the Roman army and settled for a quiet life with his wife and son. Life on their farm is good but times are hard and Titus has taken out a loan that he can’t repay. Decimus, an extremely unpleasant and impatient money-lender, sends his men to collect the money that Titus can’t pay and, before too long, blood is shed. Titus is murdered, while Marcus and his mother are captured, to be sold as slaves.
Marcus is only ten years old but full of determination to better his situation and get out of slavery. An escape attempt seems to work but he accidentally get caught while stowing away onboard a ship and is once more a slave in chains. This time Marcus has been bought by the owner of a gladiator school and, despite his young age, soon finds himself learning to fight for his life. Marcus is very much the hero and thinks constantly of two things: first, rescuing his mother and, second, avenging his father’s murder. Interestingly, things are not quite as he imagines them to be and a whispered conversation with an old gladiator in the kitchens of the school changes the very centre of Marcus’s entire world.
A fascinating and gripping story – full of vivid descriptions of life as a Roman slave and gladiator. You are there in the arena with Marcus and his fellow trainees, willing them on, yet wishing that they don’t kill each other, as, indeed, they must. The book sets the scene for what is definitely going to be an exciting new series. I am already hooked!