Debut novelist Verrone tells the story of one of ancient Rome’s greatest generals in this latest novel from the Mentoris Project, which offers several other novelizations of the lives of prominent Italians and Italian-Americans throughout history.
Publius Cornelius Scipio is known to history as Scipio Africanus for his success in campaigns in sections of what are now Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The region was also home to the famed city of Carthage, Rome’s greatest political and military rival, whose armies were led by an even more famous general—Hannibal Barca. As related in this historical novel, Scipio is only a young cavalryman when Hannibal makes his legendary crossing of the Alps in 218 B.C.E.—a feat that was unimaginable at the time. The initial battles against Hannibal end in defeat for the Romans, but during one such rout, Scipio first makes a name for himself, rescuing his own injured father from the fray. Scipio’s hatred of the Carthaginian general is personal, but it’s years before he’s finally able to have his revenge. The war between the Romans and the Carthaginians becomes a decadelong chess match up and down the Italian peninsula, but it’s only Scipio, as a general, who recognizes how to place Hannibal in checkmate—by fighting him in the Carthaginian colonies in Spain and, finally, in Africa. Through the adventures of Scipio and his more relatable friend Laelius, Verrone finds a way to dramatize the Second Punic War in an accessible way. However, he tends to treat Scipio as more demigod than man in his prose: “Scipio, with his cinnamon curls, youthful limbs, and powerful yet graceful gait, looked like a hero of myth. Never before had Laelius seen a man with such yearning flames in his eyes.” Even so, younger readers, in particular, will likely enjoy this concise rendering of a complex war between two ancient powers, and they’ll effectively understand why the names of Hannibal and Scipio remain well-known after 22 centuries.
An efficient, if somewhat hagiographic, retelling of the military career of Scipio Africanus.