Gladiator: Fight for Freedom by Simon Scarrow

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Gladiator: Fight for Freedom by Simon Scarrow

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Centurion's son Marcus finds himself enslaved and in training to be a gladiator in this new series from favourite adult genre author Simon Scarrow. Fans of historical adventure are going to love this plot-driven, sometimes gory, story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Puffin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0141333634

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Marcus's father was a centurion in the Roman legions. After the slave revolt led by Spartacus was finally put down, he retired from the army and bought a farm on a small Greek island. Marcus has spent most of his boyhood on the farm, learning to train dogs, shoot his sling accurately and dreaming of one day becoming a fighter like his father. But the farm is in debt and Marcus's life is about to crumble...

... his father murdered by moneylenders, his mother sold into slavery, Marcus finds himself a slave, and in training at a gladiator school. Despite the odds stacked against him, Marcus is determined to find his father's old general, Pompeius the Great, to secure his mother's release and get justice for his father. But first he has to survive his training and come to terms with the truth about his background.

I was expecting to enjoy Gladiator and I did. It has a strong narrative and it's very visual - the demanding, exhausting life in training as a gladiator comes to life from the pages, but so does rural life in the provinces of Rome. It will be interesting to see the picture Scarrow paints of the city itself and patrician life over the next books. It's also quite gory and violent - the "rule" in children's adventure stories is usually that the protagonist doesn't actually kill anyone but Marcus does come perilously close. Nervous parents needn't worry too much, however, because the cruelty and ruthlessness are presented as deplorable and wrong. Marcus is made into a fighter, yes, but his instinct is only to use his skills for self-defence or to protect others. He struggles with his desire for revenge rather than embraces it. And the research is spot-on, as ever.

For children who like this sort of plot-driven, historically accurate adventure, Gladiator will be just the ticket. Number one son has already stolen my copy and is reluctant to let me have it back even to check details for this review, which tells you something about the likely eagerness of the target market. Scarrow has written as efficiently for younger readers as he does for his grown up fans. If it doesn't sound ungracious though, I would like to add a slight caveat - Gladiator doesn't really offer anything we haven't seen before.

NB: Don't rush to Amazon quite yet. You need to wait until 3 February 2011!

My thanks to the nice people at Puffin for sending the book.

They might also enjoy Michael Ford's series about Spartans. If Viking adventures appeal, they could look at Wolf Cry by Julia Golding.

Simon Scarrow's Gladiator Novels in Chronological Order

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Buy Gladiator: Fight for Freedom by Simon Scarrow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gladiator: Fight for Freedom by Simon Scarrow at


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