Book Review of The Lion's Brood: The Story of Hannibal by Rafael Scott

Book Review by Chris Heaton

The historical fiction genre welcomes a new author into the field. The first book in Rafael Scott's trilogy "Lion's Brood: The Story of Hannibal " promises exciting new material in a genre that is too often ignored. The story of Hannibal Barca and the Second Punic War is fast paced action from start to finish.

The story begins with Hannibal's father, Hamilcar, and his obsession with Rome, which filters through to his oldest son. The circumstances of Hamilcar's defeat at the end of the First Punic War are well conveyed, and the story flows easily from humiliation from defeat to the quest for vengeance. With the death of Hamilcar, Hannibal comes to prominence in the Carthaginian world and the stage is set for the invasion of Italy and the Second Punic War.

The novel follows his story, relationships with family and military staff, from beginning to end. Delivered as a narration to his Roman nemesis, Scipio Africanus, Rafael Scott walks us through this pivotal series of events in world history as if we were reading Hannibal's own journal. Certainly not a new technique, but Lion's Brood provides a fresh approach to telling a tale that is rarely explored from the Carthaginian point of view.

The book, unfortunately, leaves a bit to be desired in some aspects. A few mentions of political intrigue gives the reader an overtone of dissention in the Carthaginian court, but is never deeply explored. 184 pages of action could have been supplemented with a bit broader scale and scope. While it becomes clear, as is the case in any political setting, that there are issues between personalities, further development of these sub-plots would provide a far greater understanding of the climate in the 3rd century BC. However, the basis for Hannibal's hatred of Rome, and the outbreak of war, is clearly understood. For those who know nothing of Hannibal's true history before reading, there is enough background to lay out the causes and not leave one grasping at straws.

Character development is limited in the supporting cast. Aside from Hannibal's characteristics, we learn little of his entourage save for some limited dialogue. While the roles are somewhat stereotypical, they fall into an acceptable pattern that aides the story. The reader could benefit from more in-depth portrayal of the main characters, but while lacking, the story turns page after page regardless.

His characters, Hannibal included, are regularly depicted as brilliant single combatants themselves, rather than letting the battles unfold with the common soldiery. In a story filled with action, this individual grandeur is simply a part of the big scheme of it all. It's neither out of place nor terribly unrealistic, just a piece of the puzzle.

Historically, the book is well researched. Names, places and events are all there and well attributed to our knowledge of the time. Mr. Scott sprinkles in Latin terminology that aids the setting. From weapons and titles to military formations and units, the inclusion of simple words goes a long way to creating the illusion that the reader is walking through the Alps with Hannibal.

(Though one term, gladiuses, instead of gladii, occurs far too often). Proper labeling of the Republican Roman army, Velites, Hastati and Principes, etc, shows the author's intention to build a valid scenario. Too many times, liberties with this terminology are taken within this genre, detracting from the true historical feel. Rafael Scott includes just enough to set that proper scenario without leaving a historical laymen feeling lost.

All in all, "The Lion's Brood" is an excellent first offering from Rafael Scott. The book is as described, an action novel set in the pivotal crossroads of ancient history. The absence of some subplots fits exactly what the author is trying to accomplish.

Sometimes authors delve too deeply into areas that don't compliment the story, but that isn't the case here. Action is the focus, and this novel is one page-turning action-packed page after another. Future releases by this promising new author are eagerly anticipated, as Lion's Brood packs an exciting and entertaining punch.

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