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I don't like novels about war. Books on ancient Rome don't interest me. And as an historian, historical novels have to be really good before I can stay with them.
Forged by Lightning erased my first two prejudices within a very few pages. My other conditionthe demand for a really good storywas more than fully met on every page of this engrossing tale.
Shifting back and forth between the two sides of the conflict at the heart of this bookRome and Carthagein the style of an intimate film documentary, author Angela Render first introduces us to the characters involved; drawing careful and personal pictures that from the start make them real people that we very quickly come to care about. She provides intimate details of daily life that keep it all very much alive.
She then takes us through 33 years of the war between these two city states, never losing her focus on the people involved on both sides.
Her battle scenes are remarkably vivid and detailed, although never crossing that line of being too gory. You have no doubt how horrible the carnage, death and destruction are and what each of these people felt as they experienced it all.
Not only does she keep us caring about the main characters in this drama, but also she gives us insights into the people surrounding the principals, making for a full and rich story.
I found myself first rooting for one side and then the other. Each had their faults, of course, but each had human qualities that I found endearing. As I approached the end, I didn't want either side to lose but raced to the finish just to find out for sure how she had brought it to a conclusion. I loved the ending.
Importantly, Render includes an historical note at the finish of the book to tell us exactly what happened in the end to each of the people she included in her tale.
Forged by Lightning is a cracking good read.