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A Deadly but Popular Sport in Ancient Rome - an Editorial Review of "Scorpius"

"Scorpius" by Monty Ryan

Book Blurb:

In the Roman Empire, where chariot racing reigns as the deadliest and most popular sport, an epic tale unfolds. Tethered to four horses, racing at breakneck speeds in fragile chariots, men risk everything for the hope of fame and glory. Orphaned young slave boys in the Empire like Scorpius have few other options to free themselves from bondage, and through a chance encounter the child enters the lucrative and perilous contests to gamble his life on victory. As he hones his skills, the stakes skyrocket as Scorpius’s journey takes him from the obscurity of the provinces to the cobbled streets of Rome – the world’s most powerful city – which is fraught with danger as he competes in the biggest racetrack ever constructed, the Circus Maximus. Will his sheer will and newfound prowess pave his path to freedom, or will the intoxicating taste of success prove more dangerous than the thunderous races themselves? Amidst the backdrop of Emperor Domitian's rule, who are the unseen forces and influential figures shaping or shattering Scorpius's destiny?

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Editorial Review:

Scorpius, an orphan and slave, has never known anything but servitude in the Ancient Rome Empire his whole life. His only path to possible freedom is through dangerous athletic events such as chariot racing. Chariot racing offers the possibility of fame and recognition and with that comes eventual freedom. A chance encounter leads Sorpious down the path to pursue his athletic endeavors and Scorpius finds himself determined to become a celebrated chariot racer and earn his freedom. Scorpius by Ryan Monty follows the young man as he finds himself in Rome and competing at the famed Circus Maximus. His ambition and need to succeed pushes him farther than he ever expected and the result is a heart-pounding story that demonstrates what daily life was like in the Roman Empire. Readers will be enthralled by this story and find themselves on the edges of their seats right from page one.


Wrapped in the smell and shade of the olive trees, far away from the demands of his master in the peace of a nap he had stolen from the warm sun, 13-year-old Scorpus awoke to the sounds of the overseer’s cries. The unusually large stable hand from the estate of Sextus Flavius Crispus always got his work done, and sometimes he even did it all himself instead of tricking, cajoling, and threatening the other slaves in his age group to do it for him. And since he always finished earlier than everyone else, by design, he was never easy to find when the inevitable extra chores came calling.”


Monty Ryan also put in a lot of work researching ancient Rome and chariot racing to create this fascinating novel. It is evident by the historically accurate story that he has created. Rome has a complex history and Ryan did a great job depicting life, politics, and sports in Ancient Rome. It is interesting to read and most readers will probably find that they learn something about Ancient Rome and what life was like during this era.


He wasn’t sent straight into the Circus Maximus, however; racing there, even in a small event, would need to be earned. In some ways, it had felt like a step back in the prestige of race day but a step up in intensity. He’d been plying his trade in Caligula’s Circus, a dingy, mouse-infested box that served as the minor leagues in Rome for chariot racing. It had taken a few races to get used to the pure physicality that was employed—it was a much rougher race in Rome than it was back in Hispania, and the shipwrecks were much more common and brutal. Every day he wasn’t racing, Scorpus was in the stands watching the other racers, disguised as a commoner dressed in the same rags that were frequently worn amongst the lower orders.”


Monty Ryan’s writing style is fantastic. It flows nicely in a way that makes it easy for readers to follow and engage with. It is also full of details, descriptions, and rich imagery making each scene come alive in a very vivid way for readers. Readers will feel as if they are transported right back to ancient Rome. His writing also lends itself to creating a really fast-paced novel. It is hard to put down and the storyline moves quickly. The fast-paced storyline almost makes this book feel more like an adventure story which many readers will love.


Even the most seasoned fanatics of the Circus Maximus, who’d witnessed thousands of races over decades, found themselves moved at the excitement of being present at what felt like the beginning of something new. Everyone in Rome who wasn’t lucky enough to be there would now hear about the Green Scorpius and his must-see talents, and there was a special charm of being among the first to see it realized when the boy came from nowhere to win.”


Readers who have an interest in ancient Roman history will find Scorpius to be an enjoyable read. It will also appeal to readers who enjoy stories about sports as well. It is a unique take on this time period as you don’t often see novels set in ancient Rome that are centered around sporting events like chariot racing. This athletic focus creates an engaging and unique story that historical fiction fans will definitely appreciate. At less than three hundred pages, it is a good option for readers who don’t usually read historical fiction as well.


Do you believe the gods imbued you with the power over horses that you possess so you could waste your time seeking empty pleasure? You were born a slave; I was made one before I could remember any other state of being. Our lot in life was chosen for us, until our skills aligned with our passion to make us free men. How many millions of people spend their life enslaved, Scorpius? Their liberty gone, forced like a mule to work until they’re used up and then they’re unceremoniously replaced. No choice at all.”


Scorpius easily earns a five out of five rating. It is one of the more engaging stories in the historical fiction genre about the Roman Empire. It is interesting, fun to read, very well-researched, and does a phenomenal job depicting what life was like during this era. Monty’s writing keeps readers engaged and helps to create a historical fiction novel that reads more like an adventure novel.




“Scorpius” by Monty Ryan receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


HFC Highly Recommended Award of Excellence


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