The Gladiator is Simon Scarrow’s ninth book in his Roman series featuring Macro and Cato. This time the intrepid duo are in Crete, after an earthquake there, followed by a tidal wave at sea, has marooned them in the coastal town of Matala, along with Julia, Cato’s fiancée, and her father, Senator Sempronius. The earthquake having killed most of the senior dignitaries of the island, including the governor, the Senator takes charge.
All the slaves have been freed from their bondage by the earthquake. Gradually they band together, under the charismatic leadership of Ajax, the gladiator, with Macro and Cato the only officers left capable of dealing with the revolt, along with a few legions. And deal with it they must, despite the lack of men, before it ignites rebellion throughout the empire.
I have enjoyed all of Scarrow’s Roman series. Macro and Cato are contrasting characters, well portrayed and believable. The battle scenes are not drawn out, but are vivid, and there are some good linguistically humorous touches, as in Macro’s ‘pardon my Gallic’. The Gladiator is well-paced, with an excellent opponent for Macro and Cato in Ajax, who has a personal reason to hate them both, as well as his deep resentment against all Romans for his enslavement, to fuel his actions. I look forward to the next in the series.