Spartacus Reviewed

Steve Donoghue at Open Letters reviews my novel Swords and Ashes from a classical perspective, suggesting that the book is loaded with hidden allusions to ancient authors. Indeed it is, and includes nods not only to Cicero’s Verrine Orations and Letters to Atticus, but also Ovid’s Art of Love, Ulpian’s Commentaries on Roman law, and the writings of Seneca, Plutarch, Florus and Frontinus, to name but a few. As a bonus extra, his whole review seems intended as a gentle slap to an acquaintance who think Spartacus was invented by Howard Fast, and that nobody is allowed to write about the American Civil War any more, because Margaret Mitchell has already done it.

Sean Canfield at the Daily Rotation approaches Swords and Ashes from a formalist perspective, as someone who has never seen the TV series, and doesn’t care whose picture is on the cover, or who wrote the book. He demands that the book stands up on its own merits, not attached to any other text or event. A tall order, but one which he finds the book to have met. Now he wants to watch the TV show, which if truth be told is the entire reason why licensors get onboard with tie-ins: as adverts for the next season.

Jesse the Pen of Doom (What were Mr and Mrs Pen of Doom thinking when they gave their son the middle name of “the”?) over at 8 Days a Geek thinks that if you like sex and violence, you will like this. But he also notes what few other reviewers have — the precise moment in series continuity where the book is set, which he praises as a “great bridge between two key points.”

John Neal at Celebrity Cafe: “Clements is able to take readers deeper into the gladiator’s mind and reveal his thoughts and actions… an entertaining read and an excellent companion to the series”

Pilbeam at Defective Geeks: “It’s bloody, violent, vulgar and full of sex. And that’s just in the first chapter”!

Kate Lane at Shadowlocked calls it a “toga ripper”, noting that the nature of reading a book rather than watching a TV show makes sex and violence more garish and disturbing. She says it’s: “a fabulous, well written tale that grabs the reader by the throat and slams them around a tits-, tans- and testosterone- filled version of ancient Rome that leaves them breathless.”

George Sakalis at Extra Hype says: “By Jupiter’s cock, I recommend this book and if the following Spartacus books are like this one, then Titan Books will have a great tie-in series!” With a name like his, I was expecting some flak for the way the book treats Greeks, but it seems he took it all in context, as an example of historically accurate racism. Phew.

“Fitz” at Blogcritics likes the imagery, and quotes one of the scenes I liked the most.

John Redfearn at Bookgeeks finds himself “more interested in trying to work out the rules for deciding when people say ‘the’ or ‘a’ and when they leave them out than in what would happen next.”

Meanwhile, over on Amazon, there’s a growing number of reviews, from a very interesting bunch of readers, seemingly equally divided between those who have seen the TV series, and those who now want to.

[Time travel footnote. The translations are getting some nice notices, too. Here’s Wulf Bengsch getting very enthusiastic auf Deutsch.]

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