by David Anthony Durham
From the author of the widely praised Pride of Carthage, the superb fictional rendering of Hannibal's epic military campaigns against Carthage's archenemy Rome, comes the perfect follow-up: an equally superb novel of the legendary gladiator Spartacus and the vast slave revolt he led that came ever so close to bringing Rome, with its supposedly invincible legions, to its knees.
In this thrilling and panoramic historical novel we see one of the most storied uprisings of classical times from multiple points of view: Spartacus, the visionary captive and gladiator whose toughness and charisma turn a prison break into a multi-cultural revolt that threatens an empire; his consort, the oracular Astera, whose connection to the spirit world and its omens guides the uprising's progress; Nonus, a Roman soldier working both sides of the conflict in a half-adroit, half-desperate attempt to save his life; Laelia and Hustus, two shepherd children drawn into the ranks of the slave rebellion; Kaleb, the slave secretary to Crassus, the Roman senator and commander saddled with the unenviable task of quashing an insurrection of mere slaves; and other players in a vast spectacle of bloodshed, heroism, and treachery. In the pages of The Risen--the term the slaves in revolt have adopted for themselves--an entire, teeming world comes into view with great clarity and titanic drama, with nothing less than the future of the ancient world at stake. No one brings more verve, intelligence, and freshness to the novel of the classical age than David Anthony Durham.
Publishers Weekly: This powerful and harrowing depiction of Roman oppression is also the uplifting story of a two-year slave revolt against Rome that began in 73 B.C.E., led by Spartacus, an imprisoned gladiator of legendary strength, charisma and resolve. After a mass escape, Spartacus leads a slave army of myriad nations, clans, races and faiths through what is now Italy, collecting 40,000 combatants and many noncombatant followers along the way. They call themselves The Risen and seek alliances in an effort to attack and destroy Rome and its tyrannical political system, but Roman allies are not forthcoming. Spartacus leads his army south to (what is now) Italy's "toe" intending to cross to Sicily but discovers they are trapped due to the betrayal of opportunists and a massive, coast-to-coast, hastily built wall. They begin a long, arduous trek in freezing temperatures over snow-covered mountains toward Brundisium, with Roman soldiers shadowing their march. Monumental in scale and rich in intimately portrayed characters, Durham's (Pride of Carthage) brilliant rendering of slavery and the horrors of war gives the novel its emotional impact.
Kirkus Reviews: Rousing…well-done…a competent piece of historical fiction. If everyone of a certain age carries in their heads the ideal of a ripped Kirk Douglas as the proletarian hero of the first century B.C.E., Durham turns in a portrait more suited to Brad Pitt or Channing Tatum. The conversation is breezy [and] that lightness of touch keeps the story moving at a steady pace toward its inevitable end--and, since those readers of a certain age will have another vision of how things will wind up, Durham wisely closes at a different moment that still embraces the horror.