Thursday, 25 July 2013

Get Your Cannae On: HANNIBAL: FIELDS OF BLOOD by Ben Kane

Hannibal: Fields of Blood by Ben Kane
I had a decision to make when I received my copy of Hannibal: Fields of Blood for review. I had not read the first book, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, although it had been on my hitlist for reading maybe this year, but I had been putting it off. I admit it. I had so many other books to get to, that sometimes it takes a publisher to send you a book for review, or a friend to force a copy on you, before you finally run out of excuses.

Being sent book two was the incentive I needed to get to this series and give it a try, only what was I supposed to do about book one? To get to Fields of Blood, I told myself, I should be reading Enemy of Rome first. Except life doesn't always deal you books in order does it? And after much deliberation I decided to skip book one and head straight into book two.

My plan was to review it through the eyes of the casual reader. The reader who picks up book two in the airport or bookshop 'because it sounds good and has a nice cover'. That person does not realise it is not the first in a series until they have been parted from their money. I wanted to review through that person's eyes. To give people feedback on how relatable this book is if you haven't read Enemy of Rome first. After all, it should be standard for an author these days to write each book in a series so that they can stand alone. To do otherwise is foolish indeed and it will lose you readers.

So, how relatable was it? I give it a ten out of ten on that. I did not need the first book to understand or get into the Fields of Blood story. The only place I perhaps felt a little let down on that score was in the physical appearance of Hanno, the Carthaginian.
There are three main characters in this series, Hanno – the Carthaginian, and Quintus and Aurelia – the Romans.
Naturally, being Roman, Quintus and Aurelia were easy to visualise, but Hanno was a complete mystery to me. Since Carthaginians can be of many shades of skin colour and ethnic appearance, I had no idea what he should look like and had to ask people who had read book one what I should be visualising.

What added to the confusion was the fact that, and this was a flaw I found in the book, most male characters came across as practically the same. Especially Hanno and Quintus. They read like the same person and since there was very little cultural imprint on the Carthaginians, they all sounded like the Romans and the Romans sounded like the Carthaginians.
While I had other smaller issues such as modern sounding dialogue from time to time (not all the time though) it was the cultural void that was my big issue with the book. A big black hole where the Carthaginians should be, but were present in name only.

I expect every individual has their own favourites amoung the three main characters. These were mine.
Hanno was my favourite of the triumvirate. I always enjoyed getting back to his chapters. I had no interest at all in Quintus and felt nothing for him throughout the book.
The girl character Aurelia for the first half of the book was irritating me and her scenes were my least favourite. However, into the second half of the book as she started acting more like a woman and less like an annoying child, she became a character I could relate to more. I began to look forward to her scenes since they paid to break up the Hanno and the Quintus chapters. And since Hanno and Quintus sounded the same to me, I needed their scenes to be split up by the Aurelia chapters. Otherwise I would have lost interest.
Other than that though, this was an interesting and easy flowing story that rolled along under my eyes. I sat up late at night reading it and not many books can make me do that.

For the casual reader who has picked this book up and did not realise there was one before it, this is my feedback. Don't be concerned. It will all make sense and you will not lose anything by not having read the first book.

As for me, well, I felt it was not a bad book at all and I would genuinely consider reading the next one when it comes out. I think it stands alone perfectly well and the author has done a great job with that.

I liked the book and give the book 3 stars out of 5.

- MM

Thankyou to Random House Australia for sending me this book to read and review.

NB* Earlier this year I interviewed Ben Kane on this blog and he spoke a little about this book and the series:


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