Hannibal: Clouds of War by Ben Kane‏

Ahh, ask and ye shall receive. I mentioned in my previous review that the last two books had been on a similar theme, that of Crime Fiction. I was, therefore, fully expecting my next #secretbookclub contribution to be along the same lines. That’s when the wonderful people at Historical Honey threw me a curve ball.

Hannibal: Clouds of War, is as far from the kind of book I would normally pluck off the shelves as it is possible to get. This is never a bad thing of course, but I do admit that it took some readjusting of my reading style before I got in to the flow of things.

The book is set in the early 200s BC, and splits it’s time between the two lead characters, Hanno, the Carthaginian sent by the famous general Hannibal to spy on two of his puppet city leaders in Syracuse, and Quintus, the noble Roman foot soldier battling to protect his friends and country from the might of Hannibal’s army. The third major, although admittedly often sidelines character, is that of Quintus’ sister, Aurelia, who also happens to be the love interest of Hanno.

The story follows the three characters on their paths which, you might be able to guess, lead to the same place. All set against the backdrop of a violent, bloody war between the fearsome Roman army and the forces of Carthage. There was a lot I hoped for this book. I love the idea of the emotions and pains, the fears and the tribulations that the three main characters could go through.

Unfortunately, this never seems to happen. For sure, there is a general theme of Hanno and Aurelia falling in love, although what part Quintus plays is anybodies guess. But, truth be told there is one thing this book focuses on. Fighting. It’s done brilliantly, I must add. But the entire book is centred on the realities of the field, not so much on the characters and how they cope with those realities. This is light reading, at best, that is if you enjoy casually reading about blood, guts, and other fluids the body is able to excrete at short notice.

Ben Kane is a well respected author for his historical fiction, and it’s not hard to see why.

He throws in complicated historical and military facts as if they were the most easily understood things in the world. For those of us, myself included, who aren’t totally familiar with the grimy details of Roman military tools and techniques he does provide an incredibly useful glossary, so don’t let that put you off.

I have to say though, I did struggle with this book. I felt that the female characters, of which there are two, were unconvincing and that the author simplified the nature of human emotional reactions in order to drive the story forwards. That being said, there is definitely an audience out there for these books, I’m just not sure I can be counted amongst their number just yet.

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