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The Legions of Fire (The Books of the Elements) [Hardcover]

David Drake

Price: 16.24 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Amazon.com: 2.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent historical fantasy 14 May 2010
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
In Carce, the center of civilization, bookworm Varus, son of Senator Gaius Saxa, is to do a reading. Attending it is his classmate and friend Corylus, son of commander Publius Cispius. At the recital of the epic poem, Varus abruptly makes strange predictions of the end of days beginning count down.

His young shrewish stepmother Hedia holds the avaricious wizard Nemastes culpable for Varus' outrageous embarrassing behavior. However, besides Varus, Corylus and his sister Alphena were engulfed by visions during the recital. None are aware that to the north on a remote volcanic isle, mages have begun a final ritual that will enable beasts from beyond this realm to enter and destroy mankind. Four residents of Carce with diverse skills are all that stand in the way to prevent total extinction.

The key to this sort of historical fantasy is how wonderfully David Drake captures the essence of the patrician nobility of Rome, which brings freshness to the quest. The quartet of heroes is fully developed with different skills, knowledge and attitudes. Corylus brings military strategic experience to the mix; Alphena possesses combat skills; Hedia is brilliant though volatile; and Varus has a connection to the beyond. Together they may save the realm; separately they have no chance as the Legion of Fire is an enjoyable first tale.

Harriet Klausner
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thirteenth Sorcerer 9 Oct 2010
By Arthur W. Jordin - Published on Amazon.com
The Legions of Fire (2010) is the first Fantasy novel in The Books of the Elements series. It is set within Carce, an empire very much like Rome in 30 AD. Magic is part of the belief system, but most citizens have little experience with thaumaturgy.

In this novel, Publius Corylus is a Knight of Carce and the son of a Publius Cispius, a former tribune in the Carce legions. Corylus is an army brat and only wishes to become an army officer. But first he needs training in Philosophy and Rhetoric.

Marcus Pulto is Corylus's servant. He had been a striker for the senior Publius before they retired and had practically raised Corylus. Pulto is married to Anna when he retired.

Anna is the wife of Pulto. She had been the nursemaid for Corylus and then housekeeper for the Publius family. She believes in many things that the public considers superstitions.

Gaius Alphenus Varius is the son of Gaius Saxa, a Senator. He and Corylus have the same Rhetoric instructor and have become friends. Varius even lets Corylus take instruction and practice in the family gymnasium.

Gaius Alphena is the daughter of Saxa. Her father is rather confused and lets her do many things. Alphena has almost forgotten that she is a girl.

Hedia is Saxa's second wife. She had been married to his cousin, who died mysteriously. Hedia truly cares for Saxa and his children, but Alphena does not like her stepmother.

Lenatus is a former freelance swordsmaster. Now he is the trainer for the Gaius household. His services are not used by Saxa or Varius, but he does teach Corylus and Alphena. He is a friend of Pulto.

Pandaerus of Athens is a philosopher and instructor in Rhetoric for a dozen young men. Only Corylus and Varius are really serious about learning public speaking.

Nemastes is a Hyperborean sorcerer. He has gained the attention of Saxa and greatly influences him. Nemastes can talk the Senator into just about anything.

In this story, Corylus and Pulto are on their way to a reading by Varius. Pulto is even wearing a toga, but he still has on his on his hobnailed boots. When they arrive, Corylus lets Pulto leave, so the servant goes to visit Lenatus.

The courtyard is crowded. Not many are there to hear the poetry of Varius, but Corylus and Pandareus are truly listening to every word. Of course, Corylus may tease Varius and Pandareus will critique him after the reading.

However, the reading doesn't go as planned. Corylus is trying to stay awake and suddenly experiences a vision Then Varius sees twelve sorcerers dancing near a cliff. The others also see strange things.

Alphena sees her brother go into a trance. Then the room shudders and the air becomes cold. She gets off her bench and slaps Varius.

The room returns to normal, but the crowd is milling in confusion. Then the audience rushes out of the courtyard. Saxa and Nemastes enter to observe about the disturbance, but soon leave.

Varius and Corylus are clinging to each other, looking stunned. Pandareus suggests that they leave the courtyard to get away from the spectators. Alphena decides to adjourn to the gymnasium.

Pulto lead Pandareus, Alphena, Varius and Corylus to the gym, with Lenatus at the rear. Pulto clears the way as they cross the courtyard and checks the gym for witnesses. Then he and Lenatus guard the door.

After Pandareus closes the door, he questions the two youths. Corylus explains his dream of a snowy forest. Alphena asks if he saw anything else. He says that he had seen hairy elephants. He also admits that he had seen Saxa and Nemastes just before awaking.

Then Pandareus questions Varius about the object in his hand. Varius doesn't know anything about the object, but adamantly claims it as his own. Upon further questioning, Varius admits seeing dancers.

Meanwhile, Hedia questions Saxa about the affair. Saxa says that she will just have to trust him. She replies that she does trust him, but suggests that the Emperor may not if he continues to associate with sorcerers.

This tale takes Varius, Corylus, Alphena and Hedia into dream worlds where weird events happen. They meet nymphs, fauns, ghosts, savages and other supernatural creatures. They face strange and terrifying trials.

Corylus and Varius survive the fiery disasters. The next installment -- Out of the Waters -- will address the element of water. Read and enjoy!

Highly recommended for Drake fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of the ancient world, magical incidents, and persevering young people.

-Arthur W. Jordin
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than 95% of fantasy books 5 Feb 2011
By William Spillman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is the first in a planned 4-book series and therefore spends some time introducing the characters and setting. However, one thing David Drake is very good at is developing characters and settings continually while still moving events forward, so it flows more seamlessly than the vast majority of stand-alone fantasy. In fact, it's far more readable than the Lord of the Rings books, as Drake never need long, drawn-out exposition to explain his backgrounds--he integrates them into his descriptions seamlessly.

Drake's writing is masterful. He can describe more about a setting or person in a sentence than most authors can in a paragraph, and more in a paragraph than most could fit in a chapter. Compared to him, most other authors seem repetitive and long-winded, or even boring. I discovered Drake at an early age, and his writing spoiled me to the point where I find many legendary authors, such as Tolkien, almost unreadable.

The characters are interesting, and develop noticeably during the course of events, both in themselves and in their relationships with one another. Drake has become a master at twining separate plot threads together over the course of the story, so that characters separate and come together at crucial moments, each one working and developing separately but also working together.

The book uses historical Rome, elements of Greco-Roman mythology and Norse mythology, and Drake's unique, somewhat-surreal fantasy-land building to create a world that is gritty and realistic while still bizarre and fantastical. The characters are realistically frightened and perplexed by the mystical places and things happening, but don't get stymied or require other characters to explain every detail of the magical world to them like most fantasy. They just deal with it as it comes, despite their confusion and fear, triumphing through their unique skills, their courage, and their friendship. This is what makes Drake's heroes different than most fantasy heroes who either luck into their victories or are utterly unflappable and do not know the meaning of "fear."

That said, I give this book four stars because it's not QUITE as good as Drake's Lord of the Isles books, which may be the best fantasy series ever written. This may be unfair, as this is only one book and the Lord of the Isles series is ten. Regardless, if you liked the Lord of the Isles books, you'll like this. If you haven't read the Lord of the Isles books, read them. You'll probably read this when you're done with them, anyway.
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring 6 Jan 2014
By Will Jacques - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I very rarely give bad reviews, but I'm kind of irritated by this book. I'm irritated because I spent good money for it. Is there a story here? Who would know? It's so slow 9 out of 10 readers couldn't get through the first 50 pages. Historical sludge, mixed with creepy intrigue, mixed with cosmic debris. It's a good thing the author is well published, otherwise this crap wouldn't ever see the light of day.

It COULD have been good, but it WASN'T. It was BORING.
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts slow but picks up halfway 15 Aug 2012
By M. Barry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Legions of Fire is David Drake's latest foray into the fantasy genre. Being the first book of a planned series, Legions of Fire starts off rather slow since it has to introduce the main characters and explain their backgrounds. About halfway through the story does pick up though so I would rank this as a worthwhile read.

The Pros:
1. A nice blending of Norse, Roman, and Babylonian mythology. This is the kind of thing you would expect from some trashy pulp-fiction novel or even fan-fiction stories but Drake makes it look natural without making it look like he's showing off. He puts his PHD to good use!

2. Magic from mythology. The magic in this novel is the magic our ancient ancestors thought was real. This is not Dungeons and Dragon magic where you cast a spell and get a +2 modifier to your armor. This is the magic we find in stories like Beowulf and the tales of Hercules.

The Cons:
1. Starts slow. Being the first book in the series the book has to take some time to explain the setting and the characters. About midway through the story it does pick up though.

Well worth buying and well worth reading. I am definitely looking forward to the rest of the series!
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