Monday, 17 March 2014

Battle Royale: HANNIBAL: CLOUDS OF WAR by Ben Kane

Clouds of War by Ben Kane
Forget the book for a second, lets have a look at that cover! What a beauty. One of the most eye catching covers I have seen in the genre of historical fiction. Of course, covers are as much about personal taste as stories are, so I don't expect everyone to feel the same way.
I am so sick of seeing men or women in period dress on historical fiction covers. Some of them are very well designed, inspirational to the imagination and eyecatching, but it is the sheer volume of man or woman in period costume covers that has me bored with them.
While the cover of this Hannibal: Clouds of War edition does have a man in period costume on it, the combination of colours, the font choices and the pose make it something fresh and it is likely this will be my favourite cover of 2014.

But we are not here to read what I think about the book cover are we? We are here to talk about the words beneath it. As we get beyond the book cover to imbibe of a battle royale between two mighty military forces of ancient history. The Romans and the Carthaginians.

This is the third instalment in Ben Kane's Hannibal series. I skipped over the first one, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, because it was taken up by the childhoods of our main characters. Since I prefer adult characters, I came in on book two, Hannibal: Fields of Blood.
I liked the book and reviewed it last year. I believe the reader doesn't need to read book one to understand the one following it, but it may serve a reader best if they do start with book one and not jump in elsewhere like I did.

I liked Hannibal: Clouds of War more than I liked the book that came before it. I have spent many moments trying to work out why I prefer it, but I come up empty handed. I simply did and that is that.

Ben Kane is a consummate professional when it comes to his researching. He goes to great lengths to research for each book. Going to historic sites in Italy, Sicily and beyond. Visiting ancient battlegrounds to get a feel for how his story and his characters might fit into the landscape.
I have watched the author's videos on events such as the Battle of Cannae, and seen him talk/write passionately about his historical context. I think if an author has the opportunity to travel for research, then do it, because it shows, I can tell you.
As an avid reader of historical fiction, I notice the structure this kind of hands on researching can inject into a story. It had an unmistakable footprint in Clouds of War and if you like that sort of thing like I do, then you will notice it too.

While I do struggle with how I feel about the dialogue in this series, it is the fantastic sense of place that keeps me reading. I love to feel immersed in an era when I read. In fact, as with many of us, it is why I read historical fiction in the first place. To time travel.

Everything you would expect from Ben Kane is in this novel. History and dense, lengthy battle scenes. Your major characters - who you will have come to like or love or hate via the two books that precede it - will be there to meet you also. They are all in there and if you read this author for any of those - the battles, the history, the colourful characters - then you will be well pleased with what you find.

On a final note. Great glossary. (If only all authors would include such a detailed glossary in their historical fiction books). Brilliant historical note. (When will this author realise that he has the knack with the simple matter of talking history? Which graduates well to writing non fiction. I'll buy that non fiction if it comes, for sure.)

- MM


  1. I have picked up and out down book one of this series so many times at my local bookstore. they don't have a great selection, but I love the time period and kept thinking about it. But as with you I am into adult characters which I never knew they became as there was only book one there. Now I know its a series I am much more interested. Thank you.

    1. Happy to help you out with this series. If you can get over the hump that is child characters in book one, the coast will be clear and you will have adults from book two onwards.