“Inspired by Total War: Rome II, the bestselling Total War series, Destroy Carthage is the first in an epic series of novels from David Gibbins. Not only the tale of one man’s fate, it is also a journey to the core of Roman times, through the world of extraordinary military tactics and political intrigue that Rome’s warriors and citizens used to cheat death.”
As the title of this novel may suggest, this is a book that is strongly centred around war and Rome, in particular, focussing on battles leading up to a war against Carthage following two characters in particular, Scipio and Fabius.
Personally, I have never played the Total War games, but I know a lot of people who do, and as I am trying to spread my horizons as far as book genres are concerned, when I was offered to receive this book for review, I thought I’d give it a go.
The prologue confirmed my suspicions that this would be quite a difficult book to read in parts; the characters’ names were very confusing and the amount of “army speak” was a bit overwhelming, but I found that I could overcome these problems by referring to the Character List that is provided in the book, as well as doing my own bits of research about Roman soldiers online. I went into this knowing nothing about the way Roman’s fought and I knew the bare minimum even about how they lived, meaning that when I started this book, I was clueless about how true to history this book actually is. Some of the descriptions of the battle itself, in the prologue at least, were a bit too detailed for my liking but after the prologue, the book began to get a lot better, discussing things in detail throughout but not in a way that made it feel like a text book, as the prologue seemed at points.
When the actual narrative started, I found that the amount of talk of war became a lot more understandable and I got a lot more used to it. The characters soon became more individual and started to show a lot of development, meaning that this soon became a very fast-paced, exciting read.
This is the kind of book that is rich with information about how Rome was in these times and at points, knowing nothing previously about this era, I didn’t know what was fact and what was fiction. This made it all seem very realistic to me but also quite shocking at points. For example, I was unaware of how important going to war was to young men in these times and the education system in Rome thoroughly supported training boys up to die honourably in battle. This was shocking but also felt realistic to the time and events, though some fictional, were never embellished too much by the author, so always feel very honest and realistic when you’re reading. Obviously this is an adult read as the level of description around some of the more violent scenes are not suitable for younger readers, but I think that if this is something that you can cope with then I feel it actually makes this novel a lot more realistic and how it would have been back in a time when people’s attitudes towards violence were drastically different from how we are today. Especially towards the end of the book at the plot’s climax, I was actually cringing at some of the actions described because they were so horrific but surprisingly they seemed to completely fit the time setting and were successful in demonstrating to the reader just how it might have been in these times for a soldier during a war.
One of the main things that kept me reading this book was the tension. The tension is building from the beginning and through the actions and conversations of various characters, the reader forms their own ideas about what might eventually happen, but the tension is just building and escalating. The time-line that this is written on helps with this and gives you a broader view of the Romans, concentrating mostly on the journeys of Fabius and Scipio, the two main protagonists, which means that things happen in between the chapters that are revealed to the reader later on, building up more interest around certain plot points.
The writing style in this book is what made it feel like it wasn’t just a Roman army-based “boy’s” book for me. The writing was factual and informational when it needed to be, such as in the fighting scenes and when the characters are discussing the political situation, but in other parts, it is so poetic and beautiful that you almost forget that the protagonists are in a war setting. There is one point near the end of the book where Scipio is talking about the stars, and I just found it to be so realistic and gorgeous, that it made that scene really immersive, showing a more sensitive side to the characters.
Overall, I found this to be a really well-researched realistic novel with beautiful writing and a compelling plot that just kept me turning the pages in anticipation for what was going to happen next. I loved how all of the smaller details that were included tied up by the end and you really feel like you’ve learnt something, or at least I did, by the final pages. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Roman history or even someone like me who doesn’t know anything about Rome but wants to try something new!
This book is being released on 3rd September 2013 by Macmillan so you still have time to pre order it using the link below if you should so wish!