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Hannibal is an epic vision of one of history's greatest adventurers, the almost mythical man who most famously led his soldiers on elephants over the Alps. In Ross Leckie's unforgettable re-creation of the Punic wars, it is Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, who narrates the story, and who is carried by his all-consuming ambition through profoundly bloody battles against the great Roman armies of early empire. In this breathtaking chronicle of love and hate, heroism and cruelty, one of humanity's greatest adventurers is brought to life, who learns through suffering that man is but a shadow of a dream.
Most interesting story of a remarkable man, with great persistence in planning and a lot of guts. He deserved better. Typical of petty trading politics as displayed by European colonisers all over the world. Probably as close as we're likely to get to a portrait of Hannibal and his age, very satisfying both for the authentic feel of the book and as an exciting, moving story.
Ross Leckie. A battle is like lust. The frenzy passes. Consequence remains. He lives in Edinburgh.
Ross Leckie Carthage Trilogy Collection: Hannibal, Scipio & Carthage
If Ross Leckie's Hannibal is only the second-best novel about the Carthaginian general, the author's artistry is reason enough to seek it out, even if you've already read Durham's richer and more thorough Pride of Carthage. The story begins in Hannibal's childhood, and a third of the book passes before he embarks on his long war against Rome. This means that the treatment of the famous campaigns is selective and spare, but it is nice to have another version besides Flaubert's of the mercenary revolt, and to have any version at all of the way Carthage expanded in Spain. My only quibble with the treatment of Hannibal's youth is two obvious borrowings from Mary Renault's Fire from Heaven. I'm not sure why Leckie has Hannibal reenact the famous story about how Alexander tamed his war-horse Bucephalis, complete with Renault's embellishments about the horse's mistreatment, or why his hero goes out to kill his first man in battle on a mission so very like that in Renault's book. Leckie's version of Hannibal's story is long on atrocity, packing in more varied forms of torture and execution than you'd expect to find in any three novels. The focus is on the leader himself - the novel takes the form of his memoir - showing how his father shaped his fate toward total, unconditional war against Rome and inured him to horror in childhood, ensuring that he left a trail of blood and eventually lost any positive sense of himself.