When his father, a former Roman centurion, is murdered, 10-year-old Marcus Cornelius Primus is enslaved and forced into training as a gladiator, and his mother, a former slave, is returned to slavery.
“The Gods will play their games,” Aulus Tullius Taurus, his chief training instructor, tells him, reflecting on Marcus’ declining fortunes. Marcus’ dream is to survive gladiator school and one day earn his freedom. But his path will not be easy. Gladiator training is harsh enough, but he must also face a bully in the form of Ferax, a Celt bent on his destruction. But Marcus develops a friendship with Brixus, a slave in the kitchen who had once been a lieutenant to Spartacus, and Brixus discovers a secret about Marcus that will alter Marcus’ destiny. When Marcus is forced to face wolves in an early gladiator challenge and ends up saving the life of Portia, the niece of Gaius Julius Caesar, his life takes a turn, as Caesar brings Marcus to Rome to be Portia’s bodyguard. It’s an exciting, well-told adventure that deserves a readership…if young readers can get past the corny cover and untangle all the names that end in -us.
Marcus’ exciting journey as a Roman slave and the unfolding of secrets and fortunes will have readers racing through the pages and eagerly anticipating the sequel, Street Fighter. (Historical adventure. 10-14)