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"Spartacus" doesn't seem to pick a target audience.
on January 15, 2012
Before I begin my review, I thought I might take the time to state that I'm having a particularly difficult time reviewing "Spartacus: Circus of Shadows", as a children's book. If I had children, as a parent, I'd have a rough time letting my child under the age of 14 read a book that teaches us all the valuable life lessons of mistrusting everyone, how to tell the perfect lie, when it's justifiable to steal from your brother, when it's okay to use the "s" word in front of your dad (three times), and how not to preform a seance. "Spartacus" doesn't just leave it at that, but it also repeatedly uses the word "crap", various forms of the word "crap", and various times to use the word "crap", with one count of the "a" word, and one count of using the words "goddamn." I can track an extremely extensive and boring list of inappropriate moments in which this book displays, and in some cases, almost promotes, starting with the main character's whiny and juvinille behavior, which completely vaporizes any sympathy I could have had for him, but then I'd never get around to actually reviewing the book itself.
The most I can say is, Molly Johnson is off to a start. At first I thought I was trudging through a mind numbing, poorly written conspiracy theory, thought up by that of a young boy named Spartacus, who is paranoid of the fact that his mother may have been kidknapped by the circus. But, I was pleasantly surprised by the story itself due to a few unexpected twists which gave "Spartacus" a jump start of zany, wild, dizzy, drizzled in fun, kick to life. Spartacus Ryan Zander's tale moves along smoothly and swiftly at a breakneck pace, with a plethora of off-beat, wacky weirdos, acting as the vessells which keep this story moving. Spartacus is picked up by a tough-as-nails biker who may or may not by a murderer, a couple of psychotic old women on the run from the law, a trio of gothic teenagers with an Othello complex, a circus sideshow, and many more. Each new character he meets on his road trip contributing to the plot in unique, and sometimes even surprising ways. I'd say by the point the plot began to pick up, and reveal itself bit by bit, the tension, and the twists were enough to pull what I almost immediately expected to be complete flop into a worthwhile adventure.
But, Ms Johnson needs to do a lot of reconstructing. It's too innaproppriate for children with its profanity, and blatant promotion of immoralities (though I don't think the intended it.) And it's too juvinille for adults by featuring a whinny title character I can't bring myself to sympathize or relate with, and its constant returns to toilet humor for comic releif. It really isn't a bad start. And there is plenty of fun to be had. But it doesn't really target any age group particularly well.