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Seven Hills, The by John Maddox Roberts
Review by Paul Haggerty
Ace Hardcover Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0441012450
Date: 01 March, 2005 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

A sequel to Hannibal's Children, Roberts now continues the story as Rome returns from its long exile in Germania and recaptures its ancestral lands. The beginning of the story is told by two philosophers who have heard of the wondrous events and have come to view it for themselves. This give the reader an introduction to the events from the viewpoint of people, who perhaps like themselves, have no real knowledge of Rome or Roman ways.

While Rome stays in the background, securing the homeland, laying siege to Sicily, and preparing the final crushing defeat of Carthage, the book quickly branches out to continue the stories of Marcus Scipio and Titus Norbanus. The two young military commanders have been cut off from Rome and must decide for themselves how best to serve their nation, or even whether they should serve it at all.

While Titus takes the Roman legions on a campaign across half the known world in order to return to Rome, Marcus remains behind in Egypt, working with philosophers from the School of Archimedes to generate new and fabulous inventions that may render traditional warfare obsolete, and ease the way for Roman domination of the entire world.

Titus takes the lion?s share of the book, marching the legions from Egypt around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, through a dozen countries and facing down a dozen threats before finally arriving home and being sent forth to face down the might of Carthage. But one begins to wonder, as he amasses armies, riches, and power, is he doing this for the glory of Rome, or has he begun to see himself in a more central role.

However, Carthage cannot be discounted. The empire is huge and not about to let an old enemy like Rome simply walk back on stage without a fight. While the Romans seek to recover their past and make new allies around the Mediterranean, Carthage begins mobilizing its vast armies and navies, preparing to crush Rome once and for all.

The book is very much the second volume of a trilogy. It begins with a recap, and ends with a cliffhanger. The entire book revolves around moving the pieces of the puzzle; Roman, Egyptian, and Carthaginian into their assigned places for the final thrilling conclusion that will surely be coming up in book three.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy not only history, but military tactics as well. Dozens of battles are fought as the armies crawl across the world, and Roberts takes his time explaining weapons, tactics, communications, flanking, and other esoteric details necessary to victory. Even after a dozen battles, there are always new wrinkles to keep you interested.

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