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Review: Ross Leckie's Carthage
by Irene Hahn
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Ross Leckie - "Carthage"
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Carthage
by Ross Leckie
Hardcover - 240 pages (April 9, 2001)
Canongate Pub Ltd;
ISBN: 0862419441


Reviewed by Irene Hahn

THIS IS THE LAST book in Mr. Leckie's trilogy about Carthage, and while the first two were simply annoying because of the largely negative portrayals of Hannibal and Scipio, Carthage is plainly exasperating.

It's not history, it's alternative history.

Mr. Leckie admits as much by naming his afterword to the book "Chronology & Apology".

In order to fit the story into his trilogy, he sets the destruction of Carthage into an earlier time frame. The main characters are the bastard sons of Hannibal and Scipio, the latter's son being a Gaul through his mother. Hannibal's son Hanno - who has a Roman mother and whom we briefly met in the second book - takes the place of the historic Hasdrubal, and Scipio the one of the later real life Scipio. The premise that the Romans would have accepted a bastard son into their aristocracy boggles the mind, a fact which even Mr. Leckie admits.

The book is heavily slanted towards Hanno, with "Scipio" making relatively few appearances. Scipio's conversion from "crude" Gaul to sophisticated Roman within a short time period is hardly believable. Then there is Bostar, the Chalcedonan, whom we know from both prior books (and the only pleasant character around, it seems) and whose legacy from Hannibal and Scipio is to try to avoid a final war.

Another failing of the book is the awkwardly used format of memoir and journal entries, as well as letters and other documents, all edited by the historian Polybius. Such a technique is best done well or not at all. "Not at all" would have been better here. This reader had a hard time finishing the book.

In line with Mr. Leckie's prior portraits, Cato the Elder, admittedly no pleasant character in real life, has no redeeming features whatsoever. One wonders what Mr. Leckie, who had a classical education, had in mind when he wrote this trilogy.


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