A highly entertaining, sophisticated look at the Second Punic War through the eyes of an unlikely hero.


In Berger’s (South of Burnt Rocks—West of the Moon, 2012) epic historical fiction, a young elephant driver from India fights in Hannibal’s army as it marches toward Rome.

When a Syrian caravan visits his small Indian village in 227 B.C., young Ashoka, who’s known for his talent with elephants, is sold into slavery by his father in an effort to protect his family. Ashoka’s strong sense of duty carries him through a harrowing trip across the desert, and after a display of his elephant skills, he’s eventually sold to a Carthaginian senator who orders him to train his elephants for war. The novel follows Ashoka as he’s sold a second time into Hannibal’s army and eventually becomes head mahout, or elephant driver. A treat for ancient history buffs, the novel would especially appeal to fans of TV shows like Spartacus and Rome. Presented mostly from Ashoka’s point of view, the war is seen through the eyes of an Indian slave, conscripted into a war against his will. Nonetheless, highly intuitive and intelligent Ashoka is able to see the war clearly, and he lives to protect his precious elephants. Unlike the zealots in each opposing army, he recognizes that there’s no real good or evil; the Romans and Carthaginians are equally capable of committing atrocities, and though loyal to his commander, Ashoka is not burning with rage against Rome. He serves as a reminder that armies are often made up of reluctant participants. Spanning more than a decade and far from being a tired history lesson, the story flows naturally and never feels rushed. It’s full of interesting facts about Hannibal’s march to Rome, fortified by Berger’s simple yet rich descriptions of battles and the struggles of war. However, Ashoka’s nuanced, personal narrative drives the novel. Though a slave, he never sacrifices his beliefs, and he’s often outspoken with his masters—a habit that earns him disdain from some, though he’s ultimately rewarded for his moral courage.

A highly entertaining, sophisticated look at the Second Punic War through the eyes of an unlikely hero.

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Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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