Air and Darkness (Books of the Elements)
by David Drake
Edited by David G. Hartwell
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765320810
Date: 03 November 2015 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The forces of darkness are on the rise, and only one intrepid Saxa family of Carce see the danger and can act to prevent the end of the world. The darkness is rising and the world needs a hero.
Hedia is the stepmother of Corylus. She is wise and willing to do what it takes to help her family. She has great passion and uses that passion as others might use a dagger. She hopes to mold her stepdaughter. A project that once seemed impossible.
Alphena resents her young stepmother, but is coming to see Hedia as more than her father's trophy. Alphena wants to be more than a woman and trains to fight. She learns that women must fight differently from men and being physically weaker does not make someone weak. Nor does love make someone give up all of their dreams.
Varus is a friend of the family. He is a handsome and skilled scholar warrior. He is also loyal to his friends. His legacy of being the son of a dryad and human allows him to be of help to his friend. He will find his missing friend.
This is the concluding volume of the Books of the Elements series. As the end of a multi-book series, it is not the best starting point for new readers. The earlier volumes develop the character and the action makes less sense without that background. With that warning, it is a good series that is worth reading. Carce is a magical analog of Rome which faces many of the same problems as the Rome during the reigns of the Julio-Claudian Emperors. This framework makes the series more accessible to readers who are familiar with the history of Rome.
The final entry continues the blending of magic and mysticism into the action. In addition to elemental magic, this entrant brings time into the mix. The final confrontation determines if there is a future for Carce or the Saxa family. This series allows author, Drake, to explore the inner heart of warriors as they face great odds without losing what makes them whole.
I enjoy many of the stories of Rome or their analogs. The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher is a nice example of a Roman based series. This love is based on the Videssos Series by Harry Turtledove which mixes magic with the Byzantine Empire. There are also numerous historical fiction novels and series for readers who enjoy the Empire.