Top critical review
Tears of a Cloud
on 26 April 2016
When is a book about Hannibal, not about Hannibal? When it has the real life historic figure popping up for about two pages and then is only implied throughout the rest of the book. ‘Hannibal: Clouds of War’ is not a book about Hannibal, but instead a book set during the time that Carthage looked like it may defeat the Romans with his leadership. We follow Hanno and Quintus; two once friends who find themselves on the opposite side of the conflict. Quintus is part of a Roman Army camped outside of the city of Syracuse hoping to defeat the enemy within. Unbeknownst to him, Hanno is inside after being tasked by Hannibal with keeping an eye on the city leaders – even more worrying is that someone else is in the city who is infinitely more precious than his old friend.
‘Clouds’ is both solid historic fiction, whilst also being terribly uninspiring. Ben Kane is a great author of Roman fiction, but this is him in second gear. Basing the book on a prolonged siege is no bad things as the tension can rise over time and you do feel the oppression of the era, but perhaps a little too much. Roman fiction is often gory, but parts of ‘Clouds’ just felt unsettling and unpleasant. This is a reflection of the time, but if you cannot find passion in the characters, the gruesome parts seem more macabre and indulgent.
The problem is that Hanno and Quintus alike feel like cardboard cut-out characters. Perhaps it is a fatigue with the genre, but this cannot be the case as Kane’s next two book move away from this era and are far better. It is as if he himself knew that the series was starting to run a little out of steam. The story of ‘Clouds’ is passable, yet a little aimless. Fans of historic fiction will get a reasonable read, but there is nothing in this one to write home about.