In 219 BC the war clouds gather as Hannibal sacks the Spanish city of Saguntum. Rome, egocentric, belligerent and bent on supremacy of the Mediterranean lands, cites provocation and thus war with it‘s old enemy, Carthage in what is known to history as the second Punic war.
As the two superpowers collide; Spain, Gaul and finally Italy itself become battlegrounds as Hannibal spreads slaughter, fire and sword.
Into this war of giants steps Baldor Targa of Carthage. Falsely accused and In fear of retribution, pursued and finally trapped in Numidia, Baldor fights for his life against the brother of the man he has slain. Realising he will always be a hunted man he enlists in Hannibal’s army as a mercenary warrior.
Suffering a baptism of fire in Spain, he then marches through Gaul and across the Alps, fighting Gallic tribes as well as snow and ice; emerging onto the northern plains of Italy to confront the legions of Consul Publius Scipio and his son Cornelius and where fate will take a twist that affects all their lives.
Aside from the elephants, I would guess most of us don’t know much about Hannibal’s crossing the Alps. This novel gives us the early part of his campaign from the point of view of a Carthaginian soldier, one of many nationalities that made up Hannibal’s army. Oh, and we meet young Hannibal too, in a concurrent story until our protagonist Baldor joins the army and comes to Hannibal’s attention. Our Baldor is driven from his home after a particularly violent domestic incident results in the destruction of everything he holds dear, in the course of which a powerful enemy is killed. Saved by his faithful friend Gestix, Baldor is slowly brought back from the brink of death—both physically and emotionally—but now he is on the run and joining the army seems like a good idea.
“I think we have nothing to lose by joining these men. As I said earlier I am weary of being hunted like an animal.” Baldor felt his confidence growing as Gestix did not interrupt his reasoning. “You always told me to go after what I want, to live life fully because it’s all too short!”
“That’s true lad, very true! Life is short. However, are you keen to shorten it further? For that is what you risk if we embark upon this venture. If we go to Saguntum don’t think that will be the end of it, no, no! This Hannibal is Hades bent on war with Rome and that is what will follow, as sure as night follows day.”
The siege of Saguntum is very early in Hannibal’s career. This is a Roman settlement in Spain, and the Carthaginians want them out of the country. After much fighting, Hannibal’s army is fabulously successful, but the Romans don’t appreciate losing a major city and a state of war commences. Hannibal sees an opportunity and takes the offensive, leading his army into unknown territory filled with unsympathetic Celts. Baldor and Gestix fall in with a small group of similarly motivated fighters who find common cause and bond together, providing mutual aid in a very dangerous campaign. Field battles are interspersed with ambushes; fearsome weather and narrow mountain passes threaten at every turn. After a harrowing crossing they get their first taste of a well-trained, fearless Roman army and the outcome isn’t pretty for either side. Action is constant and the battle scenes are extremely well depicted. This is only the first book of a series; many more adventures for Baldor ahead.
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