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OUT OF THE WATERS by David Drake

OUT OF THE WATERS

By David Drake

Pub Date: July 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2079-7
Publisher: Tor

Second installment in Drake's new four-volume fantasy cycle (The Legions of Fire, 2010, etc.) set in early Imperial Rome or, as the author terms it, Carce.

Once again in the early going, there's altogether too much emphasis on protocol and manners, but eventually Drake gets his engine warmed up. Rich, influential senator Gaius Alphenus Saxa, celebrating his promotion to consul, prepares an extravagant entertainment dramatizing Hercules' conquest of Lusitania. During the proceedings an extraordinary vision intrudes, apparently showing the destruction of Atlantis by the huge sea monster Typhon. Accompanying one of the guests, Senator Marcus Sempronius Tardus—whose official duties involve the prophetic Sibylline books—is a trio of sinister wizards. As Saxa's scholarly son Varus, Greek tutor Pandareus and Varus' half-dryad soldier friend Corylus debate the meaning of the vision, Alphena, Varus' sword-wielding younger sister, reveals that she saw not a monster but a man. Meanwhile, Hedia, Saxa's astute, honorable trophy wife, suffers terrifying dreams of what is clearly also Atlantis. Varus, whose own magical powers are developing rapidly, discusses the matter with the Sibyl herself. The twisty, reasonably coherent plot develops rapidly once the wizards abduct Pandareus; Tardus, our heroes discover, is a zombie, controlled by the wizards. Soon enough, Hedia, Alphena and Corylus separately arrive in Atlantis, where they learn that the seeming bad guys may be bad good guys; and Varus will call upon ancient Egyptian thaumaturgy indicted on a scroll he's never read.

A much-improved effort, not overly formulaic, with characters recognizable as people rather than online avatars.