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Book Review

Attack at the Arena by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in “The Imagination Station” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Mr. Whittaker has been finding mysterious letters in the Imagination Station. One requested a Viking sunstone to save a man named Albert from being locked in a tower. The other asked for a monk’s silver chalice from Rome. Mr. Whittaker is currently unable to use the Imagination Station, so he asks two cousins, Patrick and Beth, for help.

Patrick and Beth notice that the sunstone they brought back is missing and ask Mr. Whittaker about it. He explains that he left it in the Imagination Station, and it simply disappeared. He assumes that the person who left the letters retrieved it. Mr. Whittaker explains that Albert is one of his ancestors. Mr. Whittaker visited Albert because he intends to write a family history, but now Albert is in trouble. Albert also gave Mr. Whittaker an ornate ring that can only be seen inside the Imagination Station.

Mr. Whittaker gives Patrick and Beth clothes to wear to Rome. Beth dresses in a slave’s tunic and Patrick wears a monk’s robe. Mr. Whittaker instructs Beth to take a bag of birdseed and gives Patrick a ruby armband, explaining that a man will ask Patrick for something valuable and that Patrick should give him the armband. Patrick and Beth climb into the Imagination Station. Once they arrive in Rome, they find themselves in a large arena.

The cousins hear a sound behind them and turn to see a tiger stalking them. The cousins begin to run. A slave tells them to hurry toward the gate in the wall. The slave guides them to safety. Beth and Patrick thank him, but he retorts that he only saved them because the tiger needs to be kept hungry for the games so that it will fight more viciously.

Patrick and Beth climb to the top floor of the arena, hoping that they can spot a church somewhere in the city. They see Roman soldiers returning from battle with men, women and children who were taken prisoner. Finally they see a church and decide to walk in that direction. Before they reach it, however, a soldier mistakes Beth for a runaway slave. He throws her over his shoulder and prepares to carry her away. Patrick wants to fight the soldier and save Beth, but a monk appears and cautions him against it — and says that if Patrick stays he will be made a slave, too.

Patrick and Telemachus, the monk, travel outside the city to a small cave where Telemachus is staying. Telemachus explains that he is not from Rome, but that God told him to come here. While Patrick and Telemachus are eating dinner, a large foreigner approaches them, demanding to share their supper. He explains that he was one of the Roman soldiers’ prisoners. He didn’t want to be forced to fight and die in the games, so he escaped.

The man threatens them with a knife and asks if they have any valuables that he can sell to assist in his escape. Telemachus gives him a silver chalice that was intended for use in the Lord’s Supper. Patrick realizes that this is probably the chalice he and Beth have been searching for. The man states that he is called Aldric and that one day he will repay them. Aldric flees into the woods, and soldiers soon pass through the camp pursuing him.

Meanwhile Beth has been carried to the emperor’s palace. Seeing the bag of birdseed, the soldier leaves her in the courtyard to tend the emperor’s birds. A young man approaches her, introducing himself as Honorius. Beth giggles at his name, not realizing that he is the emperor. A general approaches, and Honorius commands him to punish Beth. The general, however, is bringing a report on a military victory. The prisoners will be forced to fight to the death in the games the next day. Honorius pardons Beth but commands her to catch all of his beloved birds so that he can take them to the games with him.

The next morning Telemachus feels that God is calling him to the arena, so he and Patrick depart. As they arrive at the arena, a man approaches them selling tickets to the games. Telemachus explains that they have no money, but Patrick uses the armband to buy them seats near the emperor’s box. Patrick sees the emperor’s procession enter and notices Beth with the birds.

He runs over to speak to her, but the soldier who originally captured Beth recognizes him. Thinking that Patrick is trying to help Beth escape, the soldier throws him in the cage with the prisoners. Patrick finds Aldric there as well. Aldric tells Patrick to stay close to him and promises to try to protect him. Patrick is given a weapon and placed in the arena with the other prisoners. They are told they must fight to the death and that the last man standing will be honored as a hero.

Before the fight begins, Telemachus approaches the emperor’s box and asks Beth to give Honorius a message. The message asks Honorius how he can allow these games if he is truly a Christian and also condemns him for using a chalice that was intended to celebrate the Lord’s Supper to salute death. (Honorius now has the chalice that his soldiers took from Aldric when he was recaptured.) Honorius is troubled by these words and tells Telemachus to enter the box.

Honorius commands the prisoners in the arena to wait, but no one hears him, and they begin fighting. Aldric tries to defend Patrick, but there are too many opponents. A panicked Beth throws birdseed into the arena and all of the emperor’s birds flutter down into the battle, creating a distraction. Aldric takes the opportunity to throw Patrick up toward the edge of the arena. Patrick is able to grab hold of the net that surrounds the emperor’s box and climb to safety.

Honorius is finally able to stop the fighting, but the crowd is enraged by the interruption to the games and wants to stone Telemachus. The emperor returns the chalice to Telemachus, who sadly states that it is no longer fit to use in Communion and gives it to Patrick instead. The Imagination Station reappears, everything freezes and a tall knight steps out. He asks Patrick and Beth to tell Mr. Whittaker to search for the tablet of Kublai Khan next. The knight leaves with the chalice, and Patrick and Beth return to Whit’s End.

Mr. Whittaker explains that no one really knows what happened to Telemachus but that the games were never held again after that day. He tells Patrick and Beth to go home and rest — but asks them to return the next day to help him find the tablet.

Christian Beliefs

Mr. Whittaker explains that monks would use a chalice in a holy ceremony called the Lord’s Supper or Communion. A slave tells Patrick and Beth to go to the church and pray. Telemachus states that all children belong to God and tells Patrick that God may allow them to find Beth at a later time. Telemachus says that God told him to come to Rome. When Patrick asks why, Telemachus responds that he doesn’t have a reason. But he must obey God anyway.

Aldric claims to be a Christian. After Aldric steals the chalice, which was supposed to be used in the Lord’s Supper, Telemachus says that it belongs to God anyway and prays that it will be used for good. God also tells Telemachus to go to the arena. Telemachus asks how a Christian emperor can laugh when men die. Honorius questions why he should stop the games, and Telemachus responds that he should stop because he claims to follow Christ who brings life. Telemachus begs the Romans in the name of Christ, who shed His blood for them, to stop the bloodshed.

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Mr. Whittaker is grateful for Patrick and Beth’s help and effectively equips them for their journey.

The soldier who captures Beth says that he can do anything he wants since he is the emperor’s bodyguard. He taunts Beth and Patrick, and threatens to kill Patrick. He warns Beth that if she tries to run away, he will shoot her with an arrow. The same soldier callously throws Patrick in with the prisoners, knowing that he will have to fight to the death.

The emperor allows and even encourages the games, not seeing any conflict between his belief in Christ and how he kills his enemies for entertainment. Beth offends Honorius, and he immediately wants to throw her in prison. Honorius laughs at the games and finds them exciting until he speaks to Telemachus. He finally repents and stops the games, despite the crowd’s anger and frustration. He is saddened by what he has allowed Rome to become.

Profanity/Violence

A tiger in the arena stalks Patrick and Beth. Beth throws sand in its eyes, and the slave drives it away with a whip. The slave explains that he was only trying to save himself from a whipping. If the tiger had eaten Beth and Patrick, it wouldn’t be hungry and therefore wouldn’t fight well in the games. The slave also states that the soldiers might use Patrick for target practice if they find him in the arena.

When Patrick tries to free Beth from a soldier, the soldier threatens him with a sword. Patrick leaps toward the soldier carrying Beth but is roughly restrained by other soldiers. Aldric worries that the animals in the arena will tear apart all of the prisoners. Aldric threatens Telemachus and Patrick with a knife when he steals the chalice. The general who reports to Honorius states that the Romans will enjoy watching their enemies suffer and die. The emperor asks what the point of a fight to the death is if no one dies. Aldric says that all of the prisoners and animals will die for the glory of Rome.

One of the arena guards commands the prisoners to fight until only one man is left standing. During the games, an elephant rears onto his hind legs and lands on two slaves. Slaves fight wild animals. The prisoners begin to fight in the arena, and a man knocks Patrick’s knife out of his hand. Several men attack Aldric with swords while he defends Patrick. One of the prisoners is gravely wounded in the fight, and everyone stops to see if the emperor wishes to spare the man. Honorius allows Telemachus to decide, and when the man is spared, the crowd begins to chant for him to be killed. They also shout for Telemachus to be stoned. Honorius warns Telemachus that the crowd will tear him to pieces. Mr. Whittaker states that Telemachus might have died in the arena but that no one really knows.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Stealing: As he steals the chalice, Aldric threatens Telemachus with a knife.

Telemachus: Telemachus obeys God without question. He treats everyone kindly but also boldly rebukes the emperor. He praises Patrick’s courage in attempting to rescue Beth but also urges him to have wisdom. Telemachus willingly shares all he has with Aldric and states that all of his belongings are actually God’s. When the emperor warns Telemachus that the crowd will kill him, Telemachus replies that he is not afraid of death. The games stop largely due to Telemachus’ courage.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

7 to 12

Author

Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

A Focus on the Family book in association with Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Released

On Video

Year Published

2010

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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