HANNIBAL'S CHILDREN

by John Maddox Roberts

Roc

0-441-00933-6

356pp/$22.95/May 2002

Hannibal's Children
Cover by Scott Grimando

Reviewed by Steven H Silver


Hannibalís destruction of Rome and exile of the Roman people serves as the starting point for John Robert Maddoxís Hannibalís Children, but the majority of the action takes place more than a century later when the relocated Romans have carved out a small republic for themselves among the northern  barbarians at Roma Noricum.

Marcus Cornelius Scipio, a descendant of one of Romeís most successful generals has been called in front of the Senate because omens point towards the time being right for a reconquest of Rome.  Under the guise of a trade mission, Scipio is dispatched to Italy to determine the current state of Carthaginian troops in and around the Seven Hills of Rome.  The Senate provided Scipio with a large group of men, including a second command who is part of the Romano-Gallic families, Titus Norbanus.

Much of Hannibalís Children appears to be a tour of the Carthaginian world Maddox has created as the Romans travel from Roma Noricum, through Italy to Carthage and eventually to Egypt.  While Maddox has done a great job in creating his world, many of its features, such as the great walls of Carthage or the Archimedian wing of the Alexandrian museum appear to be taken from fantasy novels which donít necessarily have to obey the laws of physics.  This is especially true when Scipio and the museum effect an industrial reformation in Ptolemaic Egypt.

Maddox stresses the strife between the families of Old Rome and the Gallic families who have been brought into the Roman fold.  His main outlets for this strife are Scipio and Norbanus, however, they rivalry is never really given a chance to flare up and must be accepted on Maddoxís word.  Similarly, while the new families are shown with a reasonably strong voice in the Roman Senate, there appears to be little Gallic influence on Roman life a century after Rome was destroyed by Carthage.

The world of Hannibal's Children is filled with wonders and complex politics, both of which Roberts handles well.  His characters react better to their surroundings, however, than they do to each other, leaving them with less humanity than might be desired.  While this makes the characters somewhat two-dimensional, it means that the world is a very interesting place.

Hannibalís Children definitely has the feel of a novel which was made up mostly of background material to launch a longer, more intricate series of books.  If this is the case, Hannibalís Children succeeds in creating an interesting, and different world that the reader can accept.  However, it does not stand as a novel on its own quite as well, leaving the reader with flat characters and a gazetteer feel rather than a plotted novel.


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