Warhorn by J.G. Bauer
I love learning something new in a novel and since I know very little about this period in history - 220 B.C. - it was definitely challenging to keep up with the many factions involved in the struggle for supremacy across the Iberian plain, a domination which aims to leave the area in settled peace and harmony. I desperately wanted to leave off the novel reading to begin some research of the era, but that was tempered with the urgent need to carry on with the story of Caros and find out how J. G. Bauer would develop the character of the young man who vows to avenge the brutal killing of his entire family.
The times are very bloody indeed. The description of the fighting and battle strategies are explained in great detail, sometimes too lengthy for me- the gore and devastation to man, woman, child and beast leaping off many of the pages in graphic horror. Caros transitions from being a young trader to a battle-hardened warrior who uses his deadly falcata with unerring accuracy, his combatant skills coming so naturally to him at a very swift pace. However, I like that J.G. Bauer ensures that Caros does not magically escape all injury- for me that would have been farcical in such violent and turbulent times.
Battle scars gained toughen up the warrior even more even though he must live through some heartbreaking consequences. His rapid progress to being noticed by the upper echelons of the armies didn’t disappoint me, and that the young Hannibal singles him out seems fitting. Caros becomes the kind of unassuming hero who draws friends and admirers easily from his fellow comrades and also from his enemies. Named ‘Claw of the Lion’ early on in the novel is well earned by the time the story closes.
It is not only a story of war, though, the love of a young woman –Ilimic- is also a painful transition for Caros to work through. There are many characters in the novel some of whom are very likeable, his friend Neugen for one. Other characters are much less attractive but well portrayed. My only problem with the read was that the editing could have been sharper: this would have avoided occasional spelling and points of view problems.
If you want a detailed historical novel of battle frenzy this is definitely your kind of read.