South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon
The ultimate defeat and destruction of the city of Carthage in the wake of the Third Punic War against the rising power of ancient Rome forms the backdrop for Berger’s well-researched and engrossing novel about a heroic woman named Lavena, the daughter of one of the most powerful tribal leaders in the Roman-dominated Iberian peninsula. Lavena and her scattered allies take up the burden of guerrilla resistance to the occupying Romans, and the somewhat predictable general plot is considerably enlivened by Berger’s outstanding talent for stirring set pieces and gripping action sequences.
A well-drawn cast of Roman characters helps to flesh out the occupiers into conflicted and sometimes sympathetic counterweights to Lavena and her comrades, and the author’s short Notes appendix does a great job orienting readers not familiar with the time period (future volumes in the series could only benefit from more such editorial help).
Berger does an excellent job of conveying the feelings of the characters as both oppressed and oppressors and really succeeds in bringing this time period alive.