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A Hero's Quest #1 (Gladiator Boy) by…
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A Hero's Quest #1 (Gladiator Boy)

by David Grimstone

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201515,329 (3)None

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This is a book that does not seem to have quite hit its niche. It is very short - 100 pages with double line spacing and some of that is taken up with adverts for the rest of the series plus plenty of pictures. I read it in about 20 minutes.

Looking at the book, I was wondering whether it would make a good first reader for a 5 or 6 year old venturing into novels for the first time. Perhaps that was what was intended, but the privations and fighting themes would be a big jump on from the Blue Bananas series my daughter is currently reading. My feeling was that the storyline might appeal to slightly older boys - maybe 7+. Having said that, children are all different so if your 6 year old likes to read about running over hot coals, or fighting in a spiked out ring to avoid spending life in a dark dungeon, then this book is for them.

There are some nice touches to the book. The cut out "make your own arena" is fun, as is the link to a website, and the gladiator variation on "rock, paper, scissors".

On the downside this book is not really very well researched. Not that exact historical accuracy is necessary, but if you are going to give your characters Roman names, then calling a poor boy sold into slavery "Decimus Rex" is almost as bad as naming his friend "Gladius" (which just means "sword". Rex means "King"). And then why call the owner of the slaves "Slavius Doom"? That is not really Latin at all!

Okay so they are just names but that seems to point to a more general failure to anchor the story in the period. A good chance to drop in little references to Roman custom that could be educational is missed. For instance, perhaps Decimus could have had his bulla ripped away when he was taken into slavery. Caroline Lawrence's "Roman Mysteries" series is leagues ahead of this one in that respect.

And then there was the issue that the book looked like it was going to stop on a cliff hanger, like a bad TV episode - forcing the reader to buy the next book to find out how the story ends. Had it done so I would have given this book one star - but fortunately we were treated to the first chapter of the next book, which really was the last chapter of this one and finished the story nicely, whilst still setting up the rest of the series. It was an odd structure, but ultimately the story ended well.

I should stop writing before my review gets longer than the book! But in summary, this is a good series for children - probably boys in particular - who are perhaps 7-8 and less confident readers, or who are younger but ready to attack some slightly violent themes. ( )
  sirfurboy | Sep 25, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0448454181, Paperback)

Meet Decimus Rex, who has been kidnapped by slave-takers and taken to an arena in Rome. Decimus is intent on escaping from captivity, and knows he must outshine his fellow slaves and endure the trials set before him: crossing burning coals, hammers, spikes, and hand-to-hand combat. He never gives up his hope of escape . . . if he only knew that this is just the beginning of his troubles.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:29 -0400)

Kidnapped and taken to Arena Primus for training as a potential gladiator, Decimus Rex is intent on escaping captivity and knows the best way to do so is to outshine the other slaves as they endure such trials as running on hot coals.

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