A young gladiator shall rise again

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 June, 2011, 12:00am

Gladiator: Fight for Freedom
Simon Scarrow
Published by Puffin Books
ISBN 978 0 141 33363 2

Simon Scarrow's clumsily titled Gladiator: Fight for Freedom is another debut novel from an adult fiction novelist dipping his toe into the youth fiction market.

Scarrow is best known for his Eagle series of Roman military adventures set during the period of the second invasion of Britain. Many adult fans of historical fiction have been captivated by Scarrow's thrilling plots and strong cinematic set-piece descriptions of combat.

In his novel for teens, Scarrow wisely stays in territory he knows and Gladiator: Fight for Freedom is a thrilling ride.

After quelling the rebellion by the slave Spartacus, General Pompeius is surveying the scene of carnage when he's attacked by a lone survivor. His life is saved by Centurion Titus Cornelius Pollenius.

Fast forward 10 years, and Titus is enjoying retirement as a farmer on a small Greek island. His young son Marcus dreams of becoming a brave soldier like his father, but during a violent fight, Titus is murdered.

Marcus and his mother are sold into slavery. Marcus manages to escape and plans to find Pompeius and ask him to save his mother.

Instead, Marcus is captured again as a slave and taken to a gladiator school.

Scarrow piles on the excitement. Gladiator training for the boy is violent and tough, but Marcus is determined to pull through. What he does not know is that he carries a dangerous secret with him.

Like the famous blockbuster movie of the same name, Gladiator is a potent mix of history and fictional adventure. Scarrow gives his young readers a strong narrative and the writer's flair for cinematic description is just as strong as it is in his writing for adults.