This was my first introduction to Kane’s work I was disappointed. It was swamped by too much unnecessary detail, diluted by multiple sub plots which either went nowhere or added little, and was careless with character.
In one strand Felix and his brother Antonius stand in the Roman legions, ready to deliver the decisive blow against Hannibal Barca and establish Rome as the pre-eminent power in the ancient world. But they are no match for Simon Scarrow’s creations of Macro and Cato. I was not that bothered about them.
In another strand, young senator Flamininus is set on becoming one of the Republic’s greatest military commanders with his eyes on the as-yet-unconquered Macedon and Greece. Too much time is spent on politics in Rome. Once again, he is not drawn in such a way that we are particularly interested in whether he personally succeeds or fails. There is no jeopardy in his personal story.
In the north of Greece, Philip V of Macedon is determined to restore his kingdom to its former glory but needs a strong army to help him do it. Young Demetrios dreams of fighting in the phalanx but is just a poor oarsman. But he is given an opportunity, and seizes it, bringing him into the sphere of influence of Philip. It is broadly a rags to (relative) riches story, and by far the most satisfying.
Kane’s historical detail, and love for the period, is beyond reproach. But just because you know something does not mean you have to share it. The story is told from multiple viewpoints and loses focus, and reader empathy, as a result. He has epic ambitions, but falls well short. The ending itself is inconclusive and unsatisfying, the loose ends left being frustrating, rather than enticing, for the next book in the series.