Book review: Spartacus: Rebellion by Ben Kane

Spartacus: Rebellion by Ben Kane
Spartacus: Rebellion by Ben Kane

Ben Kane’s superb Spartacus ‘mini series’ takes historical Roman novel writing to heady new heights in the final, pulsating instalment of the slave rebellion that shook the mighty Roman empire.

Hot on the heels of Gladiator, the first chapter of this bold and brutal trip to the heat and heart of an ancient legend, we follow the slave leader’s army to the toe of Italy and a battle set to make or break both of the warring sides.

Kane’s tough, uncompromising prose, allied to a refreshingly human and humane portrayal of the principal protagonists, builds on the events and characters so deftly developed in the first book.

And it’s an epic story conveyed with power, passion, gut-wrenching realism and enough emotion to fill the long and gruesomely historic Appian Way from Rome to Capua.

The mighty slave army, led by Spartacus, has carried all before it, shredding the legions of Rome and bringing ignominy and disgrace to many of the empire’s leading generals.

As the rebels march triumphantly towards the Alps and freedom, it is left to Crassus, one of Rome’s richest and most ambitious generals, to halt the slave army and end the embarrassing revolt.

But can Crassus raise a big enough army and will the defection of former slave Crixus the Gaul, and all his men, fatally weaken Spartacus? The slave leader also hears murmurings of discontent within his vast army of slaves and knows it could quickly turn to outright rebellion.

So while storm clouds mass on the horizon and spies and traitors stalk the land, Spartacus must face the most important choice of his life – move forward over the Alps to an uncertain freedom, or turn back to face the might of Rome and attempt to break its power over them forever…

Unfazed by notable big and small screen representations of the famous Spartacus story, Kane approaches the legendary warrior with a fresh eye, a raw and convincing realism and without recourse to images of a handsome, muscular, romantic hero.

Kane’s Spartacus is as much a fighting machine as a man – he’s fearless, ambitious, inspirational to his men, unforgiving of weakness, a liberal thinker and yet almost as ruthless as his foes.

Impeccable research is always Kane’s trusty trademark and Rebellion includes excellent military detail, finely tuned dialogue enhanced by an authentic Roman mindset and unwavering historical accuracy.

Action, passion and the savagery of the Roman world create an irresistible mix in a story so good, you may have to read it twice…

(Arrow, paperback, £6.99)