David Drake, Monsters of the Earth

Tor, New York, 2013.

The third in a series begun with The Legions of Fire and continued in Out of the Waters, set in an alternate Rome which Drake calls Carce. Drake is of an antiquarian bent, a Latinist who does his own translations of ancient works, and his grasp of Roman elite cultural mores, at least those from within the city of Rome itself, is fairly spot on – though he doesn’t much broaden his view outside the elite. (Roman citizens, even semi-literate soldiers, are the elite. [His not-Rome here also lacks something of the staggering filth and mortality of the ancient city that’s not reflected in its literature. {One day I’ll read a book that acknowledges ancient public baths, and the fact that they drained by overflow.}])

There are striking similarities between this and Drake’s Lord of the Isles series, in particular the broad strokes of the character types and the fact that they are forever being dragged/traveling into other worlds, mostly separately, to confront magicians whose greed, arrogance, stupidity or power-hunger threatens the existence of the whole world, en route encounter/fight monsters and strange people, to be reunited at the climax. (It is a very “Wonders Beyond Thule”/Ctesias’ “Indica” sort of strangeness, with occasional Lovecraftian elements.) But if this is the kind of thing you like – and I like it, for the most part – then this book is a hell of a lot of fun.