Review: Gladiators #1: House of Simeon by D J Manly

Gold was the unbeatable champion of the House of Simeon but after the gods foretell his death, his master refuses to put him into the arena again. Instead, he makes Gold his trainer, and uses his body for his own pleasure.

Gold wants nothing more than to fight again. It is all he knows, and he hates the fact that people think he is a coward, hiding behind his master. He longs for a death of glory in the arena, the only respectable way for a gladiator slave to leave this world.

Samson comes into Gold’s life unexpectedly. A slave with potential to rise through the ranks, but also the first man who has been able to rouse something inside of him he thought was dead.

Can Samson make Gold reveal his feelings, or will he remain the unattainable trainer who longs for a glorious death?

Review by Erastes

The trouble I found with this, that it was like reading an episode of the TV show Spartacus. Now, I don’t know when this was written, although it was published in 2010. It may have been written a long time before Spartacus hit our screens, but it’s unfortunate in that case for the author because so much of Spartacus is mirrored here. Gold is in the place of Oenameaus, the Doctore (trainer) in the show. He’s an ex-gladiator and his master doesn’t want him to fight any more and Gold resents that, just like the Doctore does. There’s a champion, and a possible up and coming champion. There’s a resentful son. In fact there’s much that’s derivative but in a way, that’s also to be expected. I don’t suppose ludi (the gladiator schools) were that different from each other.

The story, whilst familiar, isn’t bad. It’s certainly readable and if you like gladiator stories you’ll like this. It just didn’t sing for me.

Regarding the characters, Gold is one of these characters who EVERYONE in the world wants to shag. Obviously his fans from the arena, but his owner wants to shag him too, his owner’s wife ditto, the son, every single gladiator, the house servants, even rival gladiator owners. It gave the impression that he was of more use as a sex slave than a gladiator. And frankly, I couldn’t see what everyone saw in him. We are told he’s gorgeous, but other than his black hair and hugely muscled abs (yes, they get called abs, too) I couldn’t see the attraction. Yes, he’d get people who wanted to fuck him because he was a star (albeit waning) but he was a veritable iceberg and at least two of the other testosterone laden-cut-your-head-off-soon-as-look-at-you were sighing over their oatmeal in love with him. And as so often is the case, everyone (aside from the women) have homosexual tendencies, or are entirely homosexual.

Which leads me to the girly glads. The ones who show feelings seem altogether rather romantic for the setting they are in. I’m not saying relationships weren’t formed even in such horrible circumstances,but one particular gladiator spends more time swooning and hardening over his amore than he does actually worrying that he could be dead in a day or so. The love story wasn’t convincing, either. One moment Gold is all “I have no heart” and then he’s “I love him” and there really wasn’t enough interaction between the two to give this any kind of reality. Granted they had a couple of quick tumbles, but the communication between them both didn’t seem likely to have such passionate attachment. Your mileage may vary, I know.

There’s plenty of hot sweaty gladiator sex here, if that’s your bag, but my main problem with it is that most of it was rape. You might wave your finger at me and say “oh, surely, it’s only non-consensual isn’t it?” But no. Non con = rape and the fact that a slave submits to the abuse doesn’t change it from being wrong to being “Ok for titillation.” I didn’t like the rape scenes at all, and presented as erotica, I liked them even less. I suspect, having read the first section of Book 2, this is also going to be a big problem for me.  Present the full-blown rape penetrative scenes as veiled flashbacks and concentrate on the consensual stuff, specially in a romance. Save the other for mainstream fiction.

Rating “e-taboo”—I didn’t like this, because there’s nothing here that’s taboo. No-one’s shagging goats, or their sisters. Yes, there’s rape but others would call it non-con and say slave sex was not rape. But rating it taboo simply perpetrates the idea that gay sex is naughty and wrong. Need I go on?

Language – not bad. There’s no attempt, thank goodness to go and write it in translated Latin, like the Spartacus show, and the modern speech didn’t bother me all that much. But one or two instances did — e.g “I don’t know what makes him tick.” Really? What ticked in Roman times? I could gloss over a lot of the modern language, after all if we translated everyday speech from Roman times it would of course be colloquial, but if i’d been editing this, I would have suggested phrases that suited the time.

Talking of editing, it was pretty shoddy. Typing errors all over the place, e.g. trial for trail, Gracie at least 3 times for Gracia which made me chuckle—and homonyms such as discretely and discreetly being muddled. The POV needed a lot of tightening up, too as several chapters began in third person and then slipped into first which was disorienting and annoying.

But despite my catalogue of quibbles, it was very readable, and I read to the end, gripped by the story and worrying about the characters enough to enjoy the read in general. I’m looking forward to reading the next one despite the problems I know I’m going to have with it.

Author Website

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