________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 38 . . . . June 5, 2015


The Gladiator's Victory. (Warrior Heroes).

Benjamin Hulme-Cross. Illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2015.
154 pp., pbk. & hc., $13.95 (pbk.), $23.96 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-1768-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-1764-5 (RLB.).

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Mary Harelkin Bishop.

**** /4



Several older gladiators stood watching in the early morning sun. One of them nodded at Arthur and smiled. Marcus! Arthur realized with a start. Maybe this was his chance to make contact. But before he could act on his thought, a door opened across the compound. Through it, Arthur caught sight of the gladiator he was about to fight.

He gulped. If Ajax was fifteen, then he was a monster. He was massive, even next to the huge, curved, rectangular shield he carried. A smooth bronze helmet covered his whole head and face, the gleaming metal broken by two small eye holes in which Arthur could see only darkness. Ajax looked like some sort of demonic warrior from a nightmare. Arthur shuddered, suddenly very aware of the air on his unprotected face as Ajax swung his heavy sword through the air in huge circles.

Arthur and his brother, Finn, are time travelers on a mission. After breaking into their great-grandfather's museum one night, they discover that they have an important job. The museum is home to many restless warrior ghosts, and, if a ghost warrior from the past touches the boys, they are sent back in time. However, before the ghost warrior touches the boys, he tells them what he wants to change in his life. Once in the past, it is the boys' mission is to find the ghost warrior in his earlier life and help him solve the issue that keeps him from having a peaceful after life.

      As this is part of a series, Finn and Arthur have been involved in several warrior missions. In this story, they are sent back in time to help Marcus, a gladiator, make a better decision in his past life. Unfortunately for the boys, the warriors they are trying to help are not always immediately available, and once found, they don't always heed the boys' advice, as occurs in Marcus' case. That means that the boys are often living dangerously and on borrowed time. They know that they can't get back to their own lives, in the present, until they help the ghost warriors' solve a big problem.

      Finn is the nerdy, geeky brother, as Arthur sometimes calls him. He is smart and well-read and knows quite a bit about gladiators and Roman history. Finn uses his wits to help the boys stay out of trouble and to solve problems, although it doesn't always work. Arthur is stronger than Finn and is good at fighting and martial arts. He gets the jobs of defending the boys and fighting when needed.

      Set in the early Roman times, The Gladiator's Victory is fast-paced and adventurous right from the beginning! The boys go from one crisis or problem to another, and the tension keeps building. The boys' characters are realistic and well-thought-out, complementing one another. Together they are stronger, with each brother bringing different strengths and skills to solve their problems. They also act like brothers, sometimes irked by the idiosyncrasies and character of the other brother, but, in the end, they respect each other for the unique gifts and talents each has. The main characters also have values, and they worry about fighting and maiming others. They are also concerned about having to kill, and they go to great lengths to avoid actually ending a life, although some of the minor characters do not have such qualms and often fight to the death. Although there is death in the story, it is not graphic.

      The story is well-planned with short chapters of intense drama and action. Interspersed every chapter or two are entries from Finn's journal that give important information about Rome, Roman history, and gladiators. Written in Finn's voice, these passages, which enrich the novel, provide readers with interesting background knowledge that is needed in order to understand the story. This additional information also builds readers' knowledge of the topics in Finn's journal. The author has obvious done much research in this area as the time period and early Roman civilization are accurately portrayed.

      With its large font, The Gladiator's Victory would appeal to young readers, especially boys. The vocabulary is accessible to struggling readers, and the content and plot of the story are interesting and vivid enough to keep readers' interest. I really enjoyed reading this book and even learned a little more about Roman history! My only thought, as I finished it, was that perhaps it was a little short and tied up too quickly in the end. I'm sure Finn and Arthur could have had a few more adventures before finding their way home again.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Harelkin Bishop is the author of eight books and is most well-known for the Canadian best-selling "Tunnels of Moose Jaw" time travel adventures. She has written two books about Paralympic Champion Colette Bourgonje, a biography entitled Moving Forward and a picture book called Gina's Wheels. She is currently working as an Instructional Consultant for Saskatoon Public Schools.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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