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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 September 2011
When the Romans kicked Carthage in the teeth by stealing Sicily off them in the First Punic War, it was only a matter of time before the Carthaginians struck back with a vengeance. That vengeance took the formidable shape of General Hannibal Barca, a bunch of elephants and a mass of infantry and cavalry gathered from across the Carthaginian Mediterranean empire.

The story of Hannibal is legendary but there is much, much more to Ben Kane's novel than a retelling of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps. In fact, I'd argue that the book's title is misleading. Hannibal is present, as charismatic as one would wish, but, for much of the novel, he is an embodiment of hope or evil. He is the force that drives the Mediterranean to war. The focus instead is on the men who flock to Hannibal - whether to fight and die for him or to destroy him and his army.

We follow Hanno, a young Carthaginian nobleman, and his friend Suni who play truant one fateful day, stealing themselves away to fish but instead find themselves adrift at sea until captured by pirates and sold as slaves in Capua. Suni is sold to be a gladiator but Hanno is bought by the young Roman equestrian Quintus, a youth whose bravery is matched by that of his spirited sister Aurelia. After Hanno saves Quintus and Aurelia, it's only a matter of time before the two young men become friends despite the great difference between them. Their fathers oppose one another on the battlefield and the goal of both boys is to reach their fathers and join them in the fight.

Hannibal takes us from North Africa to Spain, Italy and Gaul. The horrendous hardships that Hannibal's men face as they cross the Alps - from the elements, the mountains themselves and from the tribes that control them - are described in compelling detail. The miracle is that any man or beast survived at all. While virtue is found on both sides and neither side is the favourite, there is brutality here, as life becomes something precious and at risk. Ben Kane doesn't shy away from presenting the outrages of both sides just as he doesn't make any character faultless. Quintus and Hanno are both very likeable but through the course of the pages we see them become the tools of war. Hanno's brothers Bostar and Sapho, deeply competitive and flawed, demonstrate even further what happens when war and vengeance becomes the reason for being. The fathers of Quintus and Hanno have both learned lessons that their sons have yet to recognise.

Quintus' sister Aurelia is a particularly attractive creation here. Contracted to marriage with a wealthy man fighting alongside her father she longs to hunt, fight and ride with her male relatives but, thanks to the potentially very dangerous situation at home that Quintus and her father have left her and her mother to face, she shows that the women left behind could be equally brave and resolute.

The action sequences in Hannibal are thrilling and exciting but they don't dominate. Rich characterisation and involving relationships ensure that you will finish Hannibal quickly, wanting to learn the fate of the people who fill its pages. Fortunately, I'm glad to hear that this is the first in a new series and there is much more to come.
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on 23 April 1998
I read this book a few years ago and what I liked about it most was the authors ability to catch the reader in the momentum of the events that are taking place. Only the heartless are not hoping even in the face of this tragedy that Hannibal will win through and not be defeated. Also because the author is not writing what is to be a scholarly work he speculates in a manner which is very enjoyable making the book more readable. If you have never read anything about Hannibal but have always been interested I highly recommend this book.
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on 15 June 2011
Wow, where do I begin with this one! This is an example of some of the very best of historical fiction on offer at the moment and a testament to an author who is consistently producing inspirational reads. If you loved Ben Kane's earlier series, then you will need to get a copy of this, his latest book as soon as you can. It's one of those books that will have you reading late into the night and almost missing your bus stop! It's that good.

Rome is at war with Carthage and as may be expected, this is a story told from both sides of the equation with Quintus and Aurelia largely representing Rome and Bostar, Sapho and Hanno largely representing Carthage. There are numerous other sub-characters including other family members and the infamous Hannibal, but these are the main protagonists around whom the story is mainly centred. Quintus and Aurelia who are brother and sister represent an aspiring equestrian Roman family and Bostar, Sapho and Hanno are brothers from a noble Carthaginian family. The story is located around the Mediterranean, across Gaul and into Italy itself.

This book is so good and its interweaving themes of slavery, injustice, aspiration, love, oaths, brutality, enmity and anguish certainly draws the reader straight in from the first page. As always, Kane's descriptive ability is superb, I truly felt like I was trailing Hanno and Sunni through the streets of Carthage in the first chapter. I could have been stood within the Carthaginian column as it wound its way through the treacherous Alps or sat within the Curia when the Senate met to question its returning Consul in an electrifying political setpiece. The enmity between Bostar and Sapho was brilliantly captured and certainly created a firm foundation on which to base the next book. I for one can't wait to see what will happen to the squabbling pair.

Everything about this book is excellent: the characterisation, the description, the battle scenes, the level of research, the prose, the suspense, the relationships... I could go on! When I read the initial chapter at the end of the last book, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of the first of the Carthaginian series. Now I am in the same position as I desperately await the second instalment. It can't come soon enough for me!

Whether you are new to Ben Kane or a seasoned fan, this book is recommended to all lovers of those sorts of books that truly transport you back in time. Fans of all things Roman or students of the Carthaginian Wars should likewise obtain a copy and delve into a world of bitter rivalries. I'm certain that you won't be disappointed with the first instalment to what appears to be an epic new series.

Recommended wholeheartedly.
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on 4 February 1999
This book is perfect for those who want detail, but not to the extreme. In an attempt to get a better understanding of Hannibal the author goes for his own trek across the alps (albiet he is driving and has no elephants). It is not a long read and is very well written. Ideal for those who need an introduction to Hannibal.
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on 20 March 2013
It's not often I bother to finish a book that I would rate as merely ok, as there are too many great authors to read, but something kept me at this one. The far fetched plot about the son of a Carthaginian noble sold into Roman slavery had me smiling at times- lots of convenient coincidences keep the plot afloat, such as when the slavers responsible just happen to stop by his home town for a drink and are overheard boasting about it -but I kept reading.

The cliches are everywhere. Enjoyable ones though- he has two brothers, one kind and generous of spirit, one a complete psychopath. Our hero befriends the teenage kids of his roman masters, and of course, the daughter falls for him. Lots of predictable conflicts arise- however the anticipation of them is quite enjoyable.

So, a slightly cheesy but good fun adventure. The problem lies in Kane's writing. He insists on using the same word more than once in a sentence- stuff like, "He was clothed in white clothes," or, "The shocking scene shocked him." I don't have a copy to quote from, so these aren't exact quotes, but you get the picture. A few synonyms would sort this out so easily. One gets the feeling the author is churning it out with dollar signs in front of his eyes, not taking the time to craft his sentences. Stock phrases like "in a nutshell' are way overused.

The other main hang-up is the viewpoints used to tell the tale. We simply get told told what's in everybody's head, rather than getting to see characters and events through a handful of select individuals. Viewpoint shifts several times per paragraph at times. The effect is clumsy.

Despite the dodgy style, its a rollicking adventure. The simple characters are caricatures, but that makes for light entertainment, and you won't lose track of who's who. The plot is crackers, but great fun. If you can overlook the bad style, this is easy reading that I suspect might turn into a guilty pleasure of mine.
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on 10 June 2011
I'll admit, I've always had a thing for Hannibal Barca. He'd be one of my ultimate dinner party guests. For me he's right up there with Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon, and I imagine he must have had charisma coming off him in waves. So when I found out that Kane was 'doing' Hannibal, I got very excited because I knew he'd do a great job. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was the wonderful human touch with which the author drew me in; the difficult weave of family relationships, the power of friendship in the face of adversity. This tale of humanity and the human condition set against the backdrop of an epic clash of empires is what made this novel a joy to read.

If you want a story that lives and breathes, characters that you genuinely care about, and action that leaves you breathless, Ben Kane is your man. With the instinct and skill of Hannibal himself, the author draws you in and lets loose! Echoes of the great Homeric poems summon the ancient world to glorious, blazing life. You feel the ground tremble beneath the phalanxes, hear the battle cries of the legions, smell the carnage of war. You sense the sweeping tides of history that changed the world. It's clear that Kane has a passion for his subject; a passion that sweeps the reader along like a spearman hemmed in the throng, towards whatever fate the gods have decreed. I found myself cheering - a good omen if there ever was! An epic tale, triumphantly told.
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on 5 January 2004
Some of things that went on in the 2nd Punic war are amazing. This book gives some excellent detailed write-ups of the various battles fought and charts Hannibal's journey from Spain, over the Alps and all round Italy and finally back to Carthage. This is a thoroughly entertaining tale, giving plenty of detail without being a turgid academic tome.
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on 17 November 2014
I have read this book first of the series. It approximately takes about 2 weeks to read as only have 2 hours every night to do so. I absolutely recommended this trilogy
Exciting gripping and knowledge about our past history
Another lot of 4 books I recommend is Conn Igguldens books of the Roman Empire. So Hannibal is the other side of history against the Romans. I am halfway through the second book
Fields of Blood
Equally interesting, gripping, and exciting.
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on 3 January 2016
I bought this series because I am a big fan of historical fiction and also because I have not read much about the Punic Wars. We all know the period before and after Chr. in the Roman Empire, but this was more unknown territory.
Of course we all know Hannibal leading his elephants through the Alpes but I wanted to know more about the whole war and life in that period, but in a readable and exciting way.
Kane manages to do this introducing 2 families both in Carthage and Rome, they will cross each other's path, there is friendship, betrayal, courage, hate and in the end of the book lots of action of course
It's a nice and entertaining read, it reads very fluently and at the same time I learnt more about the war in that period.
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on 11 April 2016
Following the Fortunes of Hanno, (Carthaginian) and Quintus (Roman) as they become embroiled in the 2nd Punic War, with Hannibal.
Hanno was enslaved and as an escapee struggling to reach Hannibal's Forces before recapture, Quintus his Masters Son and friend helps him.
This is an excellent depiction of Hannibals crossing of the Alps and the subsequent 20 years of war that followed with the two friends battling on both sides, a wonderful tale that is the start of a fantastic trilogy (or more) well worth the time to read.
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