It took awhile to get going, but once it did, I enjoyed it very much.
A man named Hieronymus arrives in Capua and, under the patronage of Marcus Licinius Crassus, sets up his own Ludus. Soon after the gladiators in both Batiatus' and his rival lanista, Solonius' ludi begin experiencing lethargy, nightmares, and general malaise. After Solonius' gladiators are quickly defeated by Hieronymus' lesser trained men, and people set eyes on Hieronymus' rather unique looking attendant, Mantilius, superstition begins to take hold. Is Mantilius a sorcerer, there to place curses upon rival gladiators, or is there a less otherwordly explanation in play here?
The trouble often times with tie-in novels is that if they're not written by someone with intimate knowledge of the characters, you're sometimes left with beloved characters who behave in non-canonical ways. I didn't see much, if any, of that here. The author had a good grip on the characters he was writing, and I can't recall any events in the book that would directly contradict things that happened on screen. I would have liked there have been a bit more depth to the few original characters the author added, though.
Oh, and he did a great job with the rather unique speech patterns the show used.
The mystery itself--what exactly was wrong with the gladiators--I'd already sussed out, but not the actual how, so that didn't lessen my enjoyment of the story.
This book, like the other Spartacus tie-in novel is set in the period after Spartacus and Crixus have defeated Theokoles, and Crixus is healing from his wounds, and thus not as big a factor in the book as I'd have liked. Though, he did play a part in the solving of the mystery, he still felt like a side character to me.
I'm sad there's only been two tie-in novels released. I'd love to read more.