A battle is like lust. The frenzy passes. Consequence remains. 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.
"A battle is like lust. The frenzy passes. Consequence remains." So reflects the 65-year-old Hannibal as he recounts the trials of a battle commander's life in British writer's Leckie's first novel. Readers may already be somewhat acquainted with the warlord's record: how the Carthaginian was born and bred to become the leader of a great army, how he marched toward Rome in the company of thousands of mercenaries and elephants, crossing the Alps in a legendary winter of privation. Less familiar will be the portrait of Hannibal as a lover (of Similce, a Spanish woman whom he marries) or as an introspective man well-versed in the Greek philosophers. Published to fine reviews in England, Leckie's fictional memoir is written in a simple, visceral style that brings a raw immediacy to descriptions of ancient battle. The Oxford-trained author, who drew on many classical sources, is as authoritative about crucifixions and the torture of pregnant women as he is about the details of the great warrior's brilliant military strategies. Leckie seeks not to bury Hannibal in analysis but to portray him. He gives readers a taste of an outsized man whose obsession to conquer Rome made him as bloodthirsty as he was bold. This is a ripping good read whose lesson in ancient history is yet another reward.