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hannibal by ben kane book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

In the Third Century BCE, two boys watch at their statues in life influence the world around them, including their friendship, as Rome and Carthage battle for supremacy and power.

While the title of the book, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, gives a good clue about what happens in the book, Ben Kane’s novel actually features little about Hannibal himself. Instead, we follow families from Carthage and from Capua (Rome) as their lives intersect amongst the battles and political turmoil between the two leading powers of ancient times. Kane likes to show ancient times from the point of view of the little people, the ones who had to do all the work. This book is no exception.

Most of the book revolves around Hanno, the third son of a prominent citizen of Carthage. Hanno and his best friend, Suniaton, skip a day of listening to the political speeches Hanno’s father is participating in to go fishing instead, since a shoal of tunny was rumored to be just off the coast. The two take off to earn some pocket money and have a little fun.

After filling up the boat with fish, the two toasted their success with a bottle of wine Suni swiped from his father’s stores. Unfortunately, neither were used to imbibing such strong drink and shortly passed out. A storm blew in while they slept and pushed them well out into the Mediterranean. Hanno’s family members finally learn of his fate, mourn his loss, and then focus on helping Hannibal – of whom Hanno was a close confidant – take revenge on Rome for its treatment of Carthage.

Meanwhile, Hanno and Suni find themselves sold into slavery to their hated enemy, Rome. Hanno is bought by Quintus, the son of an equestrian who owned a small plot of land in the north of Capua. Hanno and Quintus became friends—despite the unique circumstance—after Hanno saved Quintus from bandits. The friendship was strained both by their different statuses and by the conflict between Carthage and Rome.

The story follows Hanno as a slave and his father and two brothers as they fight with Hannibal and the trials and tribulations of each. Hannibal: Enemy of Rome is told  well and most of the characters are thoroughly developed. The story also does a good job of showing just how much of a hardship it was for Hannibal and his army to cross over the Alps. Kane’s books excel in transporting readers back to Ancient Roma—I  for one am glad I live in the here and now! Great book! I recommend all Kane’s books to those who like to read about Rome in its power.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Macmillan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.