Review published on October 23, 2013. Reviewed by jj redfearn
Nudge Reviewer Rating:
The cover picture on Ben Kane’s Fields of Blood is great. It shows five Roman soldiers raising an SPQR emblazoned standard. They’ve just won an intense battle and are proclaiming victory. The Carthaginians are beaten and its all over bar the shouting. All that’s left is to destroy the city of Carthage in one final push and it’ll all be over. The cover is based on the Marine Corps sculpture at Arlington.
Fields of Blood picks up from Enemy of Rome after Hannibal had recovered from crossing the Alps. Its the period when he destroyed the Roman Legions at Lake Trasimene before moving on to annihilate the Roman Army at Cannae. No matter how exhausted his army and how poor his siegecraft, had Hannibal understood the Romans he’d have gone on and attacked Rome after Cannae. If the Romans had had a motto it’d have been ‘Never give up, Never surrender’. That was Hannibal’s chance and he missed it. Thats why the cover is so clever.
In three intertwined stories Fields follows the relationship between Hanno (the Carthaginian), Quintus (his Roman friend) and Aurelia (Quintus’ sister and Hanno’s amour) as the war develops. How did people keep in touch with their friends and family during these times and what was it like not knowing for weeks or months what was happening to them? It follows the domestic life of debt, marriage and childbirth. And it follows life in the Carthaginian army as they leaned to fight Roman style and of how it might have been for Roman footsoldiers, light and heavy, in ancient battles.
The book ends on a high. Hannibal has won, the Romans are defeated with their surviving soldiers scattered and broken, Italy is in disarray and waiting at Hannibal’s pleasure.
Ben Kane is good at this sort of stuff – long may it continue.