An excellent author’s talent lies in being able to create believable situations that engage the reader and invest him or her in the struggle being described. This can be even more challenging when the world being described is a fantasy construct, as one must create an environment that seems real and has its own brand of logic. Fortunately, David Drake excels in all of this.
I love the talent that this author consistently displays and the fascinating blend of aspects of ancient Roman society and mythological elements presented here provides yet another enthralling fantasy story. Despite the fact that I have not had the opportunity to read the prior stories in this series, I was not overwhelmed by being unfamiliar with these characters and was able to discern that their very different approaches to the challenges they faced reflected their sometimes diametrically opposed personalities and beliefs, which evidently have morphed over the course of the series.
I enjoyed the fact that none of these characters behaved like a caricature, and each was such a strong individual that it was easy to become a supporter and hope for a positive outcome. The sometimes whimsical or quirky secondary characters provide both levity and food for thought as each of the main characters follows his or her path and the action is nonstop and intensifies with each encounter, while events sometimes take an unusual turn and keep one guessing about what is going to happen next. This was an exciting and fun read and I definitely want to look for the volumes that came before this one so that I can see how the characters have changed over the course of the series. I can’t wait to find out what will pop up next from this author’s fertile imagination!
“Air and Darkness” by David Drake is the final book in the ‘Books of the Elements’ series and features Varus, a scholar who has more power than he realizes, his sister Alphena, a young woman who wants to pursue her training in the armed arts, their stepmother Hedia, who is both astute and well-versed in the art of using her sexual wiles to achieve her goals, and Corylus, an efficiently pragmatic soldier. The machinations that threaten to make Bacchus a permanent part of their world plus the mysterious and inimical Blight, force each of them to reach deep inside and utilize resources that may not have been acknowledged, but that will be required to fight the foes that seem indefatigable…and it still may not be enough.
Air and Darkness, an intriguing and fantastic adventure, is both an independent novel and the gripping conclusion of the Books of the Elements, a four-volume set of fantasies set in Carce, an analog of ancient Rome by David Drake. Here the stakes are raised from the previous novels in an ultimate conflict between the forces of logic and reason and the forces of magic and the supernatural. During the extraordinary time in which this story is set, the supernatural is dominant. The story is an immensely complex journey of adventure through real and magical places.
Corylus, a soldier, emerges as one of the most compelling heroic figures in contemporary fantasy. Battling magicians, spirits, gods, and forces from supernatural realities, Corylus and his companions from the family of the nobleman Saxa-especially Saxa's impressive wife Hedia, and his friend (and Saxa's son) Varus-must face constant deadly and soul-destroying dangers, climaxing in a final battle not between good and evil but in defense of logic and reality.