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Hannibal's Children Hardcover – May 1, 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Hannibal's Children Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

John Maddox Roberts's alternative history Hannibal's Children is an interesting expedition to answer the question "What if Hannibal of Carthage had succeeded in his bid to conquer Rome during the second Punic War?"

Roberts, author of The Catiline Conspiracy and several other titles revolving around ancient Rome, opens his novel with a few words of history to acquaint the reader with the particulars of the Punic War. He then launches into his experiment, taking the reader onto the floor of the Roman Senate, which is voting to accept Hannibal's terms of surrender, namely that the Romans leave their beloved seven hills and never return. The novel then moves forward 200 years, when the descendants of the exiled Romans have carved a new empire from the barbarous north called "Roma Noricum." An expedition is sent south to assess the strength of Hannibal's descendants--a journey that takes the scouts through Rome and across the Mediterranean to the hearts of Carthage and Egypt, which have risen to great power and wealth in the absence of Rome.

Roberts is a bear for details, especially those of a military nature. His fascination with Roman military prowess is evident as he skillfully and vividly re-creates the might of the legions. Likewise, his speculative re-creation of Roman, Carthaginian, and Egyptian societies is colorful and rich. Unfortunately, Roberts runs out of gas in his third act, leaving plot lines dangling, character development unfinished, and the reader stuck hoping for 300 more pages or wishing for a sequel. Despite this flaw, the book is a fascinating experiment that brings the ancient world to life. --Jeremy Pugh

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Hardcover; 1st edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441009336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441009336
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,652,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
...the author ever bothers to write the third book in the trilogy, in my book no bigger crime can be committed by an author than NOT finishing a story.

I have been aware of this book Hannibal's Children and its sequel The Severn Hills for a few years, although they have only recently been released on kindle the first book was originally written in 2002 and the second in 2005. I kept waiting to learn if there would be a third book, I could find nothing official from the author only rumours that the third book in the trilogy was never written as sales of the previous two were poor.

When I bought both books a week ago I decided to take the plunge and purchase them in the hope that it would be like many other series I have read meaning the author leaves you satisfied at the end of each book but enough of the story is still outstanding to continue into the next book. Unfortunately that's not the case with these two books.

Both books lead up to the crescendo that would have been in the final book ***spoliers*** at the end of The Severn Hills you have the main Roman army waiting to cross the narrows between Sicily and Carthage, you have Scipio heading West at the head of the Egyptian Army with its many toys from Alexandria and you have Norbanus at the head of 8 legions about to cross into North Africa at the Pillars of Hercules after defeating the main Carthage army but allowing it to return home via the sea.......

But that's it....you don't get to read the final chapter so to speak in the story as the book was never written or published, the story is only 70% complete. Its like walking out of a movie before the ending or only watching half a football game.
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Format: Hardcover
Once again John Maddox Roberts displays his extensive knowledge of ancient Rome (like in the SPQR series), and in this book Carthage as well. In this alternate Earth, unlike our own, Hannibal gets assistance from Philip V of Macedon during the Second Punic War and forces Rome to conditionally surrender. Rome's leaders agree to emigrate north out of Italy into the Roman province of Noricum: comprising most of present day Austria and bits of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
The plot is revenge. After 115 years of forced exile the descendants of the Romans feel the time is right to send an expedition into the Italian penisula and down to Rome. The leader of the expedition is Marcus Cornelius Scipio, whose ancestor Scipio Africanus ultimately defeated Hannibal in actual history. The Roman party then visits the cities of Carthage and Alexandria and partakes in a war between the Carthaginian Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt.
This book is very interesting and I found it quite a page-turner. Maddox gives eloquent descriptions of the gods of the Roman pantheon, as well as those of many Eastern religions (Carthage and Egypt's). The reader is also given thorough explanations of Roman military tactics and warfare in general from that era. In all, the book is quite informative.
My only problems with this historical fiction novel are the development of the protagonist (M. Scipio) and the antagonist Titus Norbanus. Titus is descended from a Germanic tribe that is absorbed into the population of Roma Noricum. The Norbanus family is one of the "new" patrician families in the Senate who are at odds with the "old" patrician families that migrated from Rome, such as the Scipios.
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Format: Hardcover
Rome's rise from a tiny group of clans to a vast empire that endured for centuries has something inexorable about it. So it seemed to the Romans themselves when Virgil talked of destiny, to the Christians when Augustine proclaimed the empire divinely ordained, and to the barbarians who encircled and attacked it, yet always desired it. However you interpret Rome's history, the City's survival was on a knife's edge more than once. If the Etruscans had conquered the new Republic or Alexander the Great had turned west to Italy or Hannibal had led Carthage to victory, all of subsequent history would have been different. Or maybe it wouldn't have been? What if the Romans were exiled after the second war with Carthage and sent into exile, still a nation? That's the premise of Roberts' novel. The book is fun, fast paced, backed up with lots of historical knowledge and some interesting characters. I'd like to see a deeper sense of contingency and human imperfection in the sequel, with Roman soldiers who are not so perfect and undefeatable and with two main antagonists who are not so completely Good Guy vs. Bad Guy. But mainly I want to see how Roberts works things out. Will history resume along the lines we know, making the Mediterranean a Roman lake and the Hellenistic kingdoms Roman provinces? This book is good summer entertainment.
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Format: Hardcover
Alternate history is such a strange beast, full of windy unresolvable what might have beens. Ancient Rome has attracted its share of modern writers, speculating about its nemeses. And of these, none came closer to destroying Rome than Carthage. (With the exception of Rome's ultimate collapse in the 5th century to the Huns.) In the first and second Punic Wars, Rome was locked in a death dance with Carthage, whose greatest leader, Hannibal is remembered to this day. Several years ago, Poul Anderson wrote a novelette, "Delenda Est", invoking time travelling terrorists who use ray guns to put Carthage victorious. The result is an Earth utterly unlike ours.
John Maddox Roberts chooses a different tack. Through the vagaries of the second Punic War, Hannibal crushes the Romans and forces them to migrate north. Hannibal's victory is not implausible. That war was a close run thing, to those who have read of it.
All this is the prelude to the novel, set a century later. The Romans have conquered in central Europe, and are pushing back into Italy, thirsting for revenge. Some of you science fiction readers may notice the resemblance thus far to S M Stirling's "The Chosen". In that, a warlike people get defeated and forced into exile. But generations later, they have rearmed and are back for a rematch.
The contrasts are interesting. Stirling's Chosen are the bad fellows (proto-Draka), while Roberts' Romans are our heroes. The Chosen and the Romans have a better military, and chalk up many successes. But somehow this novel plods. Technically each section of a chapter is ok. But something is missing. The Carthaginians seem more foolish than bad. The Romans effortlessly outthink and outfight their opponents, who are not actually Carthaginians in this novel, but Egyptians. The protagonists are almost cartoonish cardboards. Very little nuancing here.
Clearly, a sequel is planned. Perhaps it will be more compelling.
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