"Spartacus: Swords and Ashes" Book Review
Written by J.M. Clements
2012, 320 pages, Fiction
Released on January 3rd, 2012
Spartacus: Swords and Ashes is the first in a proposed series of original novels based on characters from the Starz channel's hit television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The new millennium blood soaked visceral re-imaging of the Spartacus character from history (and Kirk Douglas' chin dimple) has been a rousing critical and commercial success. Spartacus, a simple man forced into the savage gladiatorial games of ancient Rome ultimately leading a violent rebellion against his masters, is a theme rife for great storytelling.
The television show prides itself in being such a stylistic orgy of visual excess that I was skeptical as to how such characters and interactions would translate to the typewritten page. Thankfully, author J.M. Clements manages to set a pace that captures most of the frenetic energy of the series, especially towards the second half of the novel. Spartacus fans craving more from the weasily Batiatus (played perfectly by John Hannah in the TV show) will enjoy this book most of all. Spartacus: Swords and Ashes is really about Batiatus' aspirations to capitalize on the death of a competing ludus (ie: gladiator school) owner and is full of many pitch-perfect Batiatus profanity laced comedic rants and insults that have become one of the infamous trademarks of the series.
My only quibble is the cover predominantly features Liam McIntyre, the actor cast to replace Andy Whitfield for season two, Spartacus: Vengeance, after Whitfield's tragic death at the hands of leukemia. Since the story takes place within the confines of season one's story arc, it would have not only made sense, but would also have been a nice tribute to see Mr. Whitfield's visage on the cover portraying Spartacus for one last time. A missed opportunity to show respect, especially considering that while reading, my mind's-eye visualized Whitfield's face and not McIntyre's.
Season two, entitled Spartacus: Vengeance, will premiere January 27th on the Starz channel. Check your local listings for channel information and show times.