Clash of Empires by Ben Kane is one of those chunky books that covers things in great detail. The book is the first book in what promises to be an addictive series based in ancient history. It appealed to me because I have always wanted to study ancient history but I passed it on to my husband as he was short of a book to read and I felt he would enjoy it. He was less convinced but ended up loving it.
The story is about when the Roman legion and the Greek phalanx, the two mightiest military formations of their time, met on the battlefield for the first time. It allows the reader to see the story from both sides not only the rulers but also the infantry men doing the fighting.
What is brilliant about the book
The book is so impressive as you can tell just how many months of research must have gone into it by the author. It does not sugar-coat the brutality of war and is action-packed and gripping. It is also good how the characters are well-drawn and how you see them develop through the course of the story. A shining example of this is Demetrios who we see grow from boy to man moving on to achieve his dreams.
What was challenging about the book
The size of the book and the fact that I an not an expert on ancient history by any means made the book a bit daunting at first. There are lots of characters in places unfamiliar to me so I had to focus more than I might in the authors I read often. However, it was worth investing the time and effort in this novel as not only was it thrilling in terms of entertainment but I also felt I learned lots along the way too.
Although the novel is set in ancient historical times, it covers timeless themes such as how the desire for power and status can lead to heavy bloodshed. Whilst King Philip of Macedonia and Flamininus of Rome ruthlessly pursue their own ends, the lowly infantry personnel are victims in many ways. Having served it the military I recognised that you can be thrown together with people apparently on your own side who you do not necessarily like or agree with. Be prepared for the strong language often found in military circles too!
The author has delivered a page-turner neatly combining fact and fiction. I would definitely be interested in reading the next books in this series.