Macedon. 367 BC. Philip II is bringing war to Persia. Forged in the warrior culture of Macedonia, the time has come for his young son Alexander to take up his inheritance of blood and obedience to the sword. It is a training that has made the boy sadistic; fiercely brilliant, but unstable. A dangerous trait in a king fated to rule the vastest empire of the ancient world. Compelled to teach this startling, precocious, sometimes horrifying child, Aristotle soon realises that what the boy needs most to learn - thrown before his time onto his father's battlefields - is the lesson of the golden mean, the elusive balance between extremes that Aristotle hopes will mitigate the boy's will to conquer in this age of fighting heroes...
Told in the PoV of Aristotle, this is the story of his relationship with young Alexander of Macedonia, whose mentor he was for years. Though Macedonian by birth, Aristotle is Greek by choice and is quite turned off at first by the 'barbarism' of his friend King Philip's court. But he and his wife make a life there, as he becomes friends with members of the royal household (and an aging actor), especially as he learns to accept and love both Alexander, whose warlike and conflicted nature is a source of constant concern and whom he tries to teach to be a better man, and his brother Arrhidaeus, whom Aristotle teaches how to live.
All initial concerns about reading a book whose main character is a philosopher flow out of the window after the first couple of pages - there's nothing ancient-like or boring about this book. It's written in present tense (my favourite way of reading historical fiction since "Wolf Hall") and though it does have a sense of time and place, it could have taken place yesterday - everything's so vivid and matter-of-fact.The great Carthaginian general, Hannibal, has never forgotten the defeat and humiliation of his father by Rome. Now he plans his revenge and the destruction of the old enemy.
While Hannibal prepares for war, the young son of one of his most trusted military commanders goes on an innocent adventure with his best friend - and disappears. Captured by pirates, put up for sale in the slave market, one of the boys is sold as a gladiator, the other as a field slave. They believe they will never see home or family again. But their destiny - interwoven and linked with that of their Roman masters - is to be an extraordinary one. The devastating war unleashed upon Rome by Hannibal will last for nearly twenty years. It will change their lives - and history - forever.
Despite the misleading title, this is not another book about Hannibal, but the story of two young men - Hanno and Quintus - unlikely friends torn apart by war and family obligations.
I liked this book well enough, but the core of the story - the friendship between the Carthaginian and the Roman - was never fully fleshed out and neither were any of the characters, with the possible exceptions of Hanno's brothers.
It is a bit superficial, bordering on YA, lacking in depth and presenting no challenge for the reader who's already read the best.