S. Kaeth's Reviews > Sol Invictus

Sol Invictus by Ben Gartner
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's review

it was amazing

I did receive a free ARC to review, but have tried to make this review unbiased regardless.

There’s so much to say about Sol Invictus, mostly because there’s so very much to love! It’s a worthy successor to an excellent new series for middle-grade readers, and it'd be lovely to see it available in schools and libraries everywhere. My true review would be 4.6 stars.

I love the history and humor and the growth in both main characters. There’s so much action and humor, I can see this grabbing the attention of even reluctant readers, and the vocabulary is advanced in spots, which I like because it’s a chance to expand children’s vocabulary naturally in an interesting way. I also love the Non nobis solum- the theme of working together to succeed.

As a homeschooling parent, one of my favorite things to do is to bring a joy and love of learning to subjects, and my three kids have really picked up on it, loving multiple subjects that are stereotypically seen as dry, from math to grammar to history. S (age 9) especially loves history. One thing I really enjoyed about the story is that it reinforced the learning we had already done in our studies of ancient Rome in an entertaining way, and the kids quickly remembered terms like Gaul and Franks and their previous learning about the Tetrarchy and Constantine.

The humor was well timed, spattering through the story and lightening other heavy themes. The weighty situations provide a lot of discussion topics for the kids to think about and consider. Nearly every chapter produced audible reactions from the kids, from laughter and giggles to cheers or groans, and usually they were begging for another chapter. Toward the end, we nearly had a mutiny because of the cliffhangers!

The storytelling was engaging and interesting, and I really enjoyed how the kids acted like kids, including the all-too-familiar bickering. I love Sarah’s bravery even to the point of being rash, and I really appreciate John’s anxiety, since my youngest also struggles with anxiety.

The prose itself felt light, which seems pretty standard for a lot of MG books, and the two main characters felt kind of along-for-the-ride for much of the story as well, but again, that’s also fairly standard for a lot of MG books. (view spoiler)

But really, overall the story was very strong and well written, and certainly equal in quality to other traditional published MG stories we’ve read with the boys. The history is a lot more immersive and detailed than in the Magic Treehouse series, including the Merlin Missions, and I like this series better as a result, especially since the main characters learn and grow. One of the great things about these books is the simple detail of the recipe at the end. There’s nothing quite like tasting history and it’s something we do when we’re learning history. By having the recipe at the end it helps kids to bring history and the story home and really make it real.

--------------------Spoilers ahead-------------------------------------

Kids’ Review below:

J (age 7) - 5 stars (well, technically he said 5,000 stars out of 5). But not as good as the Magic Treehouse.
S (age 9) - 4 stars. Better than the Magic Treehouse, but not as good as the Warriors series. (It needs a lot more talking cats to be 5 stars.)
A (age 12) - 5 stars! Way better than the Magic Treehouse. As good as the Eye of Ra. He loves it!

Overall thoughts: A really liked it. S is wondering if there are multiple eyes (like the eye of Zeus, etc.) J really likes it too and is waffling between liking this more or liking Magic Treehouse more.

Worldbuilding: S loved the Eye of Ra. A noticed that the dominus and the emperor ate the same dessert but he was thinking the emperor might have even better desserts. A liked the mysteries of Mythros. A thought the worldbuilding aided the story, and S and J said it made them curious to know more.
A said there were big cliffhangers like the cat books (Warriors series).
S - “but not as good as the cat books. Nothing can beat the cat books.”
J- “It’s better than Jack and Annie because the Eye of Ra is more portable than the Magic Treehouse.”

Plot: The battle at the end was hard to follow but everything else was easy to follow for S. A thought it was straightforward except for the battles. J had trouble with understanding some of the plot because he was introduced to new words.

Characters: A and S - roles were clear. A wishes he knew what happened to Aurora. They should have told her to write more stuff down so people would know more about them. All the kids really liked John and Sarah. S liked how John was worried about the other people trapped in time and he really liked how there were more time travelers, which made him wonder if there were more eyes, or if not, how did they get there? The kids also really enjoyed the side characters and that they each had their own motivations and showed nice and mean parts of themselves, not only good or only bad. Except Marcus.

Storytelling: Descriptions were rich and they could picture everything in their head. They really want to make libum cheesecake and eat it for themselves (we’ll definitely be doing this). They could imagine a lot of the action sequences and really liked that. J really liked imagining the eye of Ra necklace as they traced it over and over.

Immersion: The kid never wanted to stop reading. All the cliffhangers made them want to keep going, and the story was really interesting. S learned stuff during the reading, like more about marmots, and about hardtack, everyone learned more about the Roman empire and way of life, including new details from when we studied it.

Emotional Response: All had very strong reactions to the story, with lots of yelling and gasping and giggling and speculating throughout.

Thought Provoking: S wants to learn more about marmots and said it was very inspiring. J wants to know what happened to Aurora. A can see this book and the previous one as a movie.

Cover: They like the cover, but they thought John and Sarah looked a lot different.
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Reading Progress

December 5, 2020 – Started Reading
December 13, 2020 – Shelved
December 13, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
December 13, 2020 – Finished Reading

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