I had never read any of Harry Turtledove's previous novels, so I had no expectations at the start of Gunpowder Empire. What I found was a very enjoyable alternate history, time travel novel. Set in the late twenty first century where time travel is possible, society has used this to improve the world by eliminating pollution and gathering additional resources. In Gunpowder Empire, the Solter family is part of the time travel program. They are there to trade gadgets such as Swiss Army knives for grain. When the Solter parents have to go back to modern times because the mom is suffering from appendicitis, the kids are on their own at a time where things are getting a bit dicey in ancient Rome. The kids have to survive when beaurocrats start asking many questions of them, and Rome is in the brink of war with invaders.
Turtledove is clearly a skilled writer who is able to navigate what can often be the treacherous waters of time travel. His writing is technically competent, yet simple and easy to read. The story flows well and there is sufficient tension throughout. Although I never got the impression that the Solter children were in serious danger, they still had to work through some tricky situations, which Turtledove does with expert precision. This was a fun novel that I would recommend to all readers.
Carl Alves - author of Blood Street