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Monsters of the Earth (Books of the Elements) by David Drake
Cover Artist: Donato Giancola
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765320803
Date: 03 September 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Varus and Corylus are back for more elemental action. This time it isn't just Carce that is facing destruction, but the entire world. Once again Varus' friends and family will need to prevent the worst from happening.

As happened in the previous novels, the group gets split up and has separate adventures which eventually bring them all together for the final battle. The main plot revolves around the cycle of planetary life. There is an ancient battle between the forces trying to save the world and those trying to unleash the end. It all seems to be a basic magicians' quarrel revolving around Vergil, but there is much more to it.

Each member of the group makes contacts with the different factions. The truth is hidden behind all of the various stories they are told by the various factions. Looks can be deceiving, and the best allies can be from those the least similar.

The dynamics between the characters are what make me want more adventures. The friendship of Varus and Corylus is the glue to that binds the story together as they trust each other and accept their roles. Through that relationship, Corylus comes into contact with Hedia and Alphena.

Hedia is Varus' intoxicating stepmother, who will do whatever it takes to protect her family. She won't ignore her own pleasure when it is convenient. She is trying to set an example for her headstrong stepdaughter, Alphena. Alphena is the character that grows the most as she learns how to be the woman she wants to become. Alphena's determination made her a competent swordsman. That unwomanly skill may be the difference once again.

This is the third novel in the magical fantasy Books of Elements series. In addition to being related to the earth element, it is also associated with an Eastern Mythos. The Legions of Fire was related to Norse mythology and Out of the Waters was based on Native American myth. The fourth and final book of the series will focus on air and a myth from South of Europe. As a later book in the series, it isn't the best starting point for new readers, but Drake does provide enough detail for a reader to follow what has come in the prior adventures.

I liked the earlier works in this series, but as the story progresses, it is growing on me. The character development and world building draws me in further as new layers are added in each tale. The definitive end of the series is coming, but that is a good thing.

This series is similar in some ways to the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. Both deal with an alternate magical Romanesque Empire that is under constant threat with hope lying in a scion with undeveloped magical potential. Fans of that series may also enjoy this one.

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