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5.0 out of 5 starsFun, modern take on classical Rome and the Punic War
Reviewed in the United States on October 11, 2020
This was a really great read - it took a topic that I've learned about in the past and gave a different point of view. The battles and movements were well-represented, but this really got into the people and personalities. I really enjoyed the purposefully modern take, especially on the language and the politics, which added to the story and made it seem familiar. It moved quickly and was just plain fun! Great historical fiction which was about something very serious - the deadly war for the western Mediterranean - without taking itself too seriously.
The writing style is not too bad, however the depth of the characters and the utter simplicity of the story gives this a comic book nature. I soldiered on to finish it, thinking that the end might justify the long journey of reading. It did not. The ending was particularly unsatisfactory. This attempts to be an action novel surrounded by political turmoil. Unfortunately, the two plots diverge so far that they should never be in the same book. It is impossible to even identify the main plot. The characters are nothing but caricatures. The heroine is a beautiful, smart aggressive "type A" female. She, of course, has only good and virtuous political positions. The "hero" is a "type B" Roman military leader who apparently feels free to weep in front of his men when his father, the Roman consul, is unfair to him. It is too ridiculous to fathom. Then we have the villain. He is crude, fat, ugly, with deplorable manners and worse ideas. He, in opposition, to the heroine (with good ideas) is out only for himself. He leads the unwashed masses who have no hope of thinking for themselves. He really needs a black hat so we cannot fail to recognize him as villain. Finally, this is set as a historical novel. Other than Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants, nothing in the tale had much of a ring of truth. Good historical novels take the reader to the era and reveal something of life there, or at least what happened. Good writers study in order to properly immerse the reader in the alien culture. Here, I find no serious effort to that end. My guess is that the depth of inquiry was to simply read a Wikipedia article or two before writing. For those who might appreciate it, the book is very "WOKE". As for me, I just wish I had the time I spent reading it back.
5.0 out of 5 starsHistorical Fiction Doesn't Get Any Better
Reviewed in the United States on October 18, 2020
It doesn't get better than this: There are as many plot twists as GoT, but instead of dragons you get war elephants. This book is as thoroughly researched as a history text, but reads like a page-turning adventure novel. There is a deep interest in the psychology of the narrative's major participants: Hannibal, Scipio, Hasdrubal, Mago; but there is much interest in others as well: Paullus, Varro, Cato, Scipio, Nautia, Servillia, Aemilia, Fulvia, Fabius, Plinius, Claudius, Calvus... The descriptions of arms and armaments from the period seem accurate based on what i've read, but also, the discussions of the political and social-dynamic configurations of Roman society are sensitively rendered while oddly topical at this moment in US history. At 371 pages, large type, it's a quick read, handsomely bound with a reproduction of a Constable on the cover that seems in keeping with the overall tone of the book.