Hannibal: Enemy of Rome
Don’t let the title fool you: this is not a book about Hannibal. It is, however, about the beginning of the Second Punic War – from just before Saguntum to the Trebia. Hannibal and his feats are told through the eyes of two teenaged boys: Quintus, the son of the Roman equivalent to a gentleman farmer, and Carthaginian aristocrat Hanno, who becomes Quintus’s slave – and then friend – through recklessness and a few quirks of fate. It won’t be long before they are forced to become enemies.
Ben Kane has chosen a most exciting period and done his research. A pity that the execution doesn’t live up to the premise. After an intriguing start, the plot meanders from extraordinary coincidence to unlikely incident; too many characters are prone to knee-jerk choices and floods of clumsy expository dialogue, and the writing in general would have benefited from some tight editing. A couple of glaring anachronisms (such as quills, prodigal sons and ordeals in the hands and mouths of people from the 3rd century B.C.), and the lack of anything even remotely close to an ending, further spoil what could have been a great read. A missed chance.