Ship of Rome
This is the first of a series of naval warfare adventures set during the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome. The main characters are the Roman centurion of marines, Septimus, and the Greek sea captain Atticus, commander of the warship Aquila. So far, so original; but on page 2 we learn that the Aquila is rowed by chained slaves, as are the opposing Carthaginian galleys. It should not be necessary to say yet again that the myth of the ancient galley slaves originated with Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur. The ships steer by degrees, a couple of thousand years too early. Some of the legionaries can’t swim, although this was a part of every legionary’s basic training, and the projected new Roman navy is described (in my advanced review copy, anyway) as the Classis Romanus. No, “classis” is a feminine noun requiring a feminine adjective, so the Roman navy was the Classis Romana. Yet there are good things here, too. The story is exciting, with strong characters and vigorous action, and sets up a multi-generational conflict in future instalments, between the Carthaginian Barca family and the Roman Scipio family. Free those chained slaves, Mr. Stack, and I’ll buy the next novel in this series, even though this one contains more howlers than a pack of wolves at full moon.