Gr 5–8—A very attractive format adds appeal to this set about historic empires at their peak. Books lucidly discuss each empire's roots, expansion, often brutally subjugated peoples, governance, and eventual fall. Layouts are clear and uncluttered, with sidebars that add information about daily life, religious beliefs, and other related topics. Illustrations are effective and include large color photos of locations and artifacts as well as reproductions of surviving art, but the maps aren't as strong. Most of these topics have wide extant coverage, and these titles don't add much new material or analysis. However, Chinese and Mauryan draw on recent scholarship and archaeological finds to provide a better understanding of two lesser-known but very important empires. VERDICT Additional purchases; Chinese and Mauryan in particular would make good options for report writing.