The Walls of Rome


The Walls of Rome

Robert M. Kidd

3 out of 5

Synopsis
218 BC. Sphax is seventeen and haunted by the brutal murder of his parents at the hands of Rome. After ten years of miserable slavery he will make his last bid for freedom and go in search of Hannibal’s army and his birthright. He will have his revenge on the stinking cesspit that is Rome!

Destiny will see him taken under the wing of Maharbal, Hannibal’s brilliant general, and groomed to lead the finest horsemen in the world – the feared
Numidian cavalry that would become the scourge of Rome.

From the crossing of the great Rhodanus River, Sphax’s epic journey takes him through the lands of the Gaul to the highest pass in the Alps. This is the story of the most famous march in history. A march against impossible odds, against savage mountain Gauls, a brutal winter and Sphax’s own demons.

This is more than a struggle for empire. This is the last great war to save the beauty of the old world, the civilized world of Carthage, Greece and Gaul. The world of art and philosophy – before it is ground into dust by the upstart barbarity of Rome.

Review
Sphax breaks free of his life as a slave, and intends to get revenge on the Roman Empire and people who killed his family. The surest way is to get that, is to join Hannibal's army.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

The story follows Sphax, a man of Numinidian descent, whose parents were killed in front of him at the age of 7. He has spent the last decade living as a slave, beaten and treated worse than an animal at the hands of his 'masters'.
When an opportunity presents itself, he kills his master, and steals his horse. With another ex-slave Fionn for company, they travel to Hannibal's army, and fall in with a Numidian group.

This is a well-written adventure, following a young man's escape from Rome, and his experience with the various factions of Hannibal's army.
I really liked the historical accuracy. The author does a great job of weaving background information into the storyline, without it ever becoming clunky.

The book is filled with great action scenes, as Sphax joins in forays against Hannibal's enemies, and slowly gains the respect of the other Numidians.

I liked the growing friendship between Sphax and Idwal - the son of the Cavari chief. It starts as something politically advantageous, but they soon become good friends. Idwal is often a voice of reason, and supports Sphax throughout.

The not-so-good.
I personally did not like Sphax. No matter how good the rest of the book, I need to be able to connect with the main character, and I failed to do so on this occasion.
I found Sphax to be completely contradictory. He says that Numidians are peaceful people, but goes into rages and thinks nothing of slaughtering the enemy down to the last man.
I also found his storyline unbelievable - no matter who his parents are, Hannibal is not going to send him to cultivate important diplomatic connections on his own. Especially as he acts childishly and without any second-thought. One of the generals quote - follow duty, not glory - but never follows that advice.
I also find it highly unlikely that a boy who has been a slave for ten years, remembers all the protocol etc from when he was 7 years old.
Don't get me started on Sphax bragging how amazing he is with horses. I know a thing or two about horseriders. There is next to no chance that a slave would be better than the Numidian cavalry, especially as he never mentions honing his skill, other than vague "I trained my master's horses", just because he did trick riding as a kid. Kids under 7 yrs don't retain that skill, trust me.

I quite liked the prospect of the character of Fionn - a serving girl that Sphax rescues from an abusive master. But despite a bright start, she is quickly relegated to being the pretty thing that warms Sphax's bed.
She is invisible for most of the book, and the end just made me roll my eyes. She wasn't a person, she was a plot device with breasts.

Overall, this was a well-written historical story, but I failed to connect.



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