Tackling an epic time of history, one in which the outcome will determine the future of Western Europe and beyond, is a heady task to say the least and Ben Kane has met the challenge. Think about the enormity of the consequences of this decade’s long conflict between Carthage and Rome. If Carthage wins then our world today would be different in some fashion…hmmm, sounds like a good idea for an alternative history story; but I digress.
Cannae – 50,000 Roman soldiers, 8000 Carthaginians – that is indeed a lot of blood. This second book in the series takes off where Hannibal Enemy of Rome ends. Rome is reeling from Hannibal’s successes in crossing The Alps and defeating every legion it comes up against, leading to the twin disasters of Lake Trasimene and Cannae. The main characters, Hanno and Quintus have grown much during this time, are now war hardened, blooded infantrymen. The author does a superb job in his development of his characters, both major and minor, good guys and not so good guys. You can still feel the emotion and struggles of Hanno regarding his slave past, his love for Aurelia and the intense friction between he and his brothers. Quintus in the meantime has rebelled against his father and has secretly become an infantryman rather than suffer the indignity of being sent home.
The story goes back and forth between Hanno, Quintus and Aurelia so we get good views and descriptions of the daily lives of a Carthaginian phalanx, a Roman maniple and the struggles of those left behind to keep the family out of the clutches of unscrupulous loan sharks. The author is in top form as he brings us into the lives of these perplexed individuals as they contend with the fact that their countries are bitter foes and yet they have emotional bonds with each other that transcend the hostilities.
The two major battles of this book, Lake Trasimene and Cannae are dramatically retold and one cannot help but wonder at Hannibal’s military genius and the confounding inability of the Romans to counter that genius. The end of this episode finds Hanno exultant and Quintus wondering how he is still alive. This well crafted story is a must for any who love stories that bring you the agonies and ecstasies, the highs and lows of human emotions in a war torn country. Well done Mr. Kane, looking forward to the next installment. I rate this book at 4.8.
Aside from passing mentions in other Roman era fiction, this is my first in depth encounter with the Alpine traversing, pachyderm using scourge of Rome since I saw the movie Hannibal starring Victor Mature back in the late 1950’s. This is not, however, my first encounter with the author Ben Kane having read his marvelous Forgotten Legion series.
The story here, while having many storylines filled with intrigue, revolves around two young men. Hanno is the son of a prominent officer in Hannibal’s army, while Quintus is the son of an equestrian class Roman. Through deft maneuvering of plot, the two are brought together midst the growing tension between Rome and Carthage.
Among all of the fascinating aspects to this story is the way the author subjects the main backdrop, i.e. Rome versus Carthage, to the various inter-personal conflicts that many of the characters are dealing with. Conflicts of loyalty not only to one’s home and leaders but conflicts of intense loyalty to one’s family and friends.
Another of the many aspects that stands out is how the author brings you into the action whether it be a coming of age bear hunt or the momentous crossing of The Alps. You can feel the breath of the bear as it fights for it’s life and the agony of the men and animals following Hannibal on that long and dangerous venture.
This is a riveting tale guaranteed to leave you wanting more from this gifted writer. Well, you need not worry along those lines as the sequel is out and ready to draw you further into the lives of the characters and the struggle for the supremacy of the Mediterranean world. Well done, Mr. Kane.