HANNIBAL'S CHILDREN

John Maddox Roberts, Author . Ace $22.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-441-00933-6

What would have happened if Hannibal had received the reinforcements necessary for him to topple the Roman Empire? That fascinating "what if" is the central premise of Roberts's (the SPQR series) latest historical novel, which begins with the arrival of Philip V of Macedon and his formidable army at a pivotal point in the series of wars between Carthage and Rome, allowing the brilliant Hannibal to force a surrender in which the Romans are driven north out of Italy. Fast-forward a hundred years: the Romans are plotting their revenge against Hannibal's progeny, starting with a trade mission-cum-military espionage expedition led by Marcus Scipio. Scipio does a thorough job of sizing up the capabilities of the Carthaginians before leaving behind his rival, Titus Norbanus, to manage that situation in Carthage while he embarks on a similar expedition to Egypt. He then plans an ingenious series of maneuvers to retake Italy, pitting the Carthaginians against the Egyptians while manipulating both the queen of Egypt and Hannibal's heir, Hamilcar II, before a series of dramatic battles that feature the innovative war technology of the era. Roberts occasionally gets bogged down in military minutiae and cultural rituals, but his portraits of the various leaders and rivals are first-rate and his knowledge of the period is unassailable. He does an admirable job of navigating through a difficult and challenging conceit, providing plenty of reflective material for history buffs while constructing an intriguing story line that pays tribute to the ingenuity of the Romans. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/15/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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