Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Spartacus: Swords and Ashes by J.M. Clements

Title: Spartacus: Swords and Ashes
Author: J.M. Clements
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 320
Add to Goodreads

Betrayed by the Romans. Forced into slavery. Reborn as a Gladiator.

The classic tale of the Republic's most infamous rebel comes alive in the graphic and visceral Starz tv show, Spartacus. Torn from his homeland and the woman he loves, Spartacus is condemned to the brutal world of the arena where blood and death are primetime entertainment. But not all battles are fought upon the sands. Treachery, corruption, and the allure of sensual pleasures will constantly test Spartacus.

To survive, he must become more than a man. More than a gladiator. He must become a legend.

The first in a series of brand-new original Spartacus novels.

So I am a HUGE Spartacus fan. I'm rewatching it now for the third time and, let me tell you, I'm still pretty devastated that it's over. When I found out there were a couple novels that went along with the series, I was thrilled! The first one, Swords and Ashes, is set between episodes 1x07 and 1x08, and really went out of its way to explain a few things.

The book begins with Batiatus, Lucretia, Ilithyia, Spartacus, Varro, and Barca heading to the home of Pelorus, a lanista friend of Batiatus who has died by a slave's hand, for his funeral and games. According to custom, all of the slaves in the household must die and are set to be put to death in the arena. While there is a ton of action and killing (obviously), there is actually a lot of unexpected depth to this story. There is a scheme which is slowly uncovered by Batiatus with the help of Spartacus. There are obviously some uncomfortable situations in the book - look at the source material! - but they weren't there just for the shock value and actually added to the story.

Language of the world of Spartacus abounds in this book and is easily my favorite part of the entire series! Best line in the book:
"And what of it to you, if his funeral passes without remark?"

"'I care not a shit for his departure from this world,' Batiatus said..." 
Bahaha! I died! Seriously, Spartacus is not for the faint of heart!

The characters, while already having obvious personalities on the TV show, were even more developed and we really get an unusual look inside the relationship between gladiator and lanista. Watching the friendly banter between Spartacus and Varro was both wonderful and gut-wrenching. I didn't want that part of the book to end! It was also really interesting to go back in time to Spartacus' pre-slave life and get a glimpse into the battle between him and the Getae. It comes full circle as his relationship with the Medea, the Getae "witch" who killed Pelorus, progresses. She really provides a lot of insight and foreshadowing to the events that occur in later seasons of Spartacus.

It was really fascinating to read this in conjunction with the course I'm taking on Augustus this semester. There were familiar characters such as Cicero and it was a lot of fun to kind of put a personality with the name. I will admit, though, that it took a long time to finish this one because I was getting a little burned out by all the Roman material.

Those who are unfamiliar may be pretty lost with this one, but I would definitely recommend Spartacus: Swords and Ashes to anyone who is already a fan!