Fiction Historical, Romans, Carthaginians, Punic Wars
213 BC, Syracuse: outside the walls, a vast Roman army waits. Yet the city’s incredible defences mean that Syracuse will not be taken easily.
A veteran of the bitter war since its beginning, Quintus is ready to give his life in the service of the Republic. But dangers face him from within his own ranks as well as from the enemy – who include his former friend, the Carthaginian, Hanno.
Hanno has been sent by his general to aid Syracuse in its fight against Rome. Pledged to bring death to all Romans, he is diverted from his mission by the discovery of Quintus’ sister Aurelia, a captive within the city.
Two friends on opposing sides. A woman caught between them. They are about to meet in one of the most brutal seiges of all time.
Who will survive?
I don’t know if you’re (like me) thinking that Clouds of War is a strange title for a final part in a trilogy? And then, as you’re reading, you begin to think ‘maybe he should hurry up and get to the end of Hannibal’s story or he ain’t got enough space to write it properly!’ I went through all that and more, then realised, later backed up by Ben’s ‘afterword’ this isn’t the end. It’s the start of the end, maybe. But, don’t worry little brother – there are more. Relief all round.
So what then is Clouds of War doing, if it’s not a conclusion? Well, it’s taking a slight detour from the Punic War, to concentrate, in many places I think you could say ‘hone in on’ the various sub-plots there have been up until now. Aurelia’s marriage, her love for Hanno, Hanno’s love for her and Quintus’ undercover struggles in the Roman foot-soldier’s world. Once I was settled and not panicking because this wasn’t a final part of a trilogy, I relaxed and enjoyed what the good Mr. Kane is up to here. If it was to showcase his writing of other things than huge, fuck-off great battle scenes, that is. If it was, he passes with flying colours. I will admit to investing some personal experience into the scenes, but the final third and Hanno and Aurelia’s attempts at taking their love further, away from Syracuse, as it were, as the Romans close in, had me misty-eyed on the edge of tears. It is really that good.
Strangely then, for the man with his name above the door, Hannibal isn’t really in it, much. He sends Hanno away from Italy to go see how Syracuse is getting on, but that’s about it. So, I’m putting my hat and coat on the next one being more on Hannibal and the Carthaginians’ attempts to put the Romans in their place. As we know what happened, anyone who has been awake in their life so far that is, Ben’s job won’t be easy. He needs to get us on the edge of our seats hoping, hoping, hoping that just once, maybe this time, Hannibal will win. That’s because, Quintus apart, I’m guessing the readers sympathies are indeed with the plucky underdogs here. If anyone can do it, that isn’t called Frederick Forsyth, can do it, Ben Kane can. It’s going to be unmissable!
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