Sol of the Coliseum is an action-adventure story set in a world reminiscent of – but definitely not – Ancient Rome. Sol is born in the Coliseum; his mother dies as a result of his birth, but he is saved by a momentary tenderness on the part of Grall, a guard who is missing his own newborn son.
Sol grows up as a slave and inevitably becomes a gladiator, fighting for his life on the sands of the Coliseum, gaining the respect of his opponents and a steady stream of ‘the Spoils”: the slave women given as a reward to a successful gladiator. But Sol is a natural gentleman, and he spends more time listening to these women than bedding them, and as a result he learns his worldview is, not surprisingly, simplistic…and slowly he becomes embroiled in rebellion.
Sol of the Coliseum is a straightforward adventure story, with detailed descriptions of gladiatorial battles against both other gladiators and wild beasts. The writing is competent and the story flows well, although I had some issues with pacing, especially towards the end, when culminating events happened very rapidly. The characters are well rounded and attractive, with perhaps the exception of the evil Lysik: I kept waiting for some backstory or explanation of his vileness to make him more than a stock nasty (albeit a very nasty nasty.) While there are few surprises in the plot, the story is nonetheless entertaining.
I had a few issues with the world-building; although Gaylord takes his time at the beginning of the book to create a solid setting, the insertion of some modern phrasing and concepts into what was essentially a Romanesque world jarred a little, none more so than the characters drinking coffee. This seems to be common intrusion into created worlds, one, I suspect, (in a rather tongue-in-cheek way) that may result from writers not conceiving of how a world can function without it. However much I may need my coffee (and I do!), I still find it jars when it appears in a world where it doesn’t seem to belong. But that is a personal peeve.
The book is a stand-alone adventure, but the story could be continued. Sol is a interesting enough character (in some ways he reminds me of the actual Tarzan, the one from Edgar Rice Burrough’s books, not the movie versions) that the author may wish to further develop his story.
Four stars, overall, to an enjoyable adventure story with appealing characters.
The author provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.