Elemental Mysteries Series by Elizabeth Hunter

Read by Tracy September and October 2012

Tracy recommends as one of the best supernatural series in a very long time

The Elemental Mysteries series is touted as a paranormal mystery/romance series which has so far spawned four books with the fifth Building from Ashes due out on 23 October 2012. To keep up to date with this series check out the website.

After finishing a Kindle book, I went to the Kindle store and the first book that popped up was A Hidden Fire and unusually for me I bought all four books before I even read what they were about which was lucky as I am not one to usually read vampire or supernatural books. However, it was a long weekend here in very warm and sunny Perth and I have a cold that has kept me in bed and I managed to finish all of the books and now I can't wait for the next book to be released, especially after reading the snippet that Ms Hunter left at the back of A Fall of Water. Another great example of self-publishing.

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth HunterBook cover of A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter

Book blurb: A phone call from an old friend sets Dr Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he’d abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

This is the first book in the series which is based on each element - fire, earth, wind and water, although now there will be a fifth book as well which after finishing all the books must be about the mysterious fifth element, anyway I am digressing. We fall into the world of Beatrice, or "B" to her friends, is hoping to become a librarian, so in her spare time she works in the special collections reading room at Houston University. She has had, which would at one time been a sad upbringing, but these days, fairly typical with the death of her father, the abandonment by her mother all resulting her being brought up by her grandparents, the fantastic character of Isabella, and her recently departed husband, Beatrice's grandfather who she adored. Enter Dr Giovanni Vecchio, a visiting scholar to the university and when there is a change of staff shifts, he soon finds himself staring at Beatrice and finding it increasingly more difficult to assist his friend Tenzin in translating a very old Buddhist transcript. In the Vecchio household, we are also introduced to Caspar who is his loyal and devoted assistant and Doyle, the cat.

There are all sorts of underlying plot lines but when Giovanni is forced to show his hand by the appearance of his son, Lorenzo, he reveals to Beatrice his true character - he is a vampire (approx 500 years old) and yes he has fangs. It soon becomes clear to Beatrice that her father didn't die, instead he was turned for his knowledge of a book that was written hundreds of years before and could provide the elixir of life. Beatrice struggles with this as she spent most of her young life being depressed, thinking she was getting over her father’s death, to find that she kept seeing him and she was hallucinating. I should also explain at this point, that not only is Giovanni a vampire, but all vampires have an affinity i.e. fire, earth, wind and water that they can use to assist them, plus they have Aegis, which allows them to smooth over humans minds, so they don't really remember what has happened.

Unlike a lot of vampire books I have read, this one had some witty dialogue. I laughed when Giovanni takes Beatrice out and she quizzes him on the vampiric myths and their truth, most of them untrue. Eventually, however, Giovanni starts to wear her down and Beatrice takes a position as his research assistant, albeit for more reasons than he cared to share with her at the interview. Of course anything to do with books has Beatrice hooked. She became an avid reader when she was depressed after her father’s death, using books as an escape into the other worlds books offered. He also, for once, has found someone who captures his attending and he doesn't have to hide who he is. Also getting a computer savvy assistant helps solve his more pressure issue, due to his affinity with fire, he is unable to truly adjust to modern technology and as his main work is that of a book hunter, searching for rare and valuable books for clients, he finds it increasingly difficult without the internet. It isn't all business though, he also spends a considerable amount of time tracking down his personal library from centuries before which he was led to believe at the time had perished in a fire.

Carwyn, one of Giovanni's oldest friends, soon appears on the scene and Beatrice feels herself pulled more and more into the political undertones of the vampire regime. Carwyn is like a big teddy bear, a very old Welsh priest who is connected to earth and who adds some fun into the story line and also gives more life to Giovanni. He comes up with some fantastic lines - Doyle the cat is demonic as it causes cat hair to go up his nose and that love is friendship - just with less clothes, which makes it far more brilliant. Not sure if a priest should be expressing anything about nakedness, but funny nonetheless. Eventually the lure of accessing Beatrice's father puts her in danger and although she felt she was traded for a library of rare books, she is in fact being protected by the increasingly besotted Giovanni and she soon finds herself a prisoner on Lorenzo's Greek Island which draws the main characters of the book together with Giovanni (fire), Tenzin (wind) and Carwyn (earth) all playing their part in her recapture. Afterwards Giovanni takes her to the Cochamo Valley in Chile where she needs to reassess her relationship with him and to work out a future together. The house is isolated and they can talk about anything without being overheard and for the first time in his life, Giovanni reveals his true parentage.

I enjoyed the linkages to historical events which keeps the pace of the book moving and adds another layer to the story. Plus the descriptions of place were gorgeous. I have been to Chile and it is awesome with the Andes Mountains just towering over the landscape. What is also interesting, is that at the end of this book there is a chapter from the next book just to whet your appetite for more of the sadness, betrayal, anguish, despair and love that must be overcome.

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This Same Earth by Elizabeth HunterBook cover of This Same Earth by Elizabeth Hunter

Book blurb: Beatrice De Novo thought she had left the supernatural world behind…for the most part. But when the past becomes the present, will she leave her quiet life in Los Angeles to follow a mystery she thought had abandoned her? Where has Giovanni Vecchio been, and why has he returned? Giovanni has his own questions, and he’s looking to her for answers. The sequel to A Hidden Fire will reunite Beatrice and Giovanni to continue their search through the past while both wrestle with the future. When the world as you knew it has changed forever, is there any way you can turn back?

The second book in the series, draws a lot on the first book and enhances the characters, allowing them to grow and evolve. This book is set five years after A Hidden Fire where Giovanni leaves Beatrice, to allow her to grow up and experience the world without him as a distraction. In the meantime, each year Beatrice has mage a pilgrimage to Cochamo, hoping to see Giovanni, but as his mysterious disappearance continues, she instead writes her innermost thoughts and feelings in journals that she leaves behind. He eventually comes back on the scene to a very hostile reception, apparently totally puzzled by her reaction; I think he was under the misapprehension that she would be excited to see him. However, he now has in tow "Ben", a teenager who he rescued from a life on the streets and who is relishing his opportunity to shine. Eventually Giovanni realises his mistake when Carwyn bluntly explains that every man in her life has left her, or abandoned her and he was exactly the same. It is going to take some very fancy wooing to get her back and realise this time it is for eternity.

In This Same Earth we also find out that Beatrice's family have strong links to the vampire family that runs Los Angeles, in fact she is his granddaughter and Don Ernesto Alvarez is very keen to grow the relationship. Again Beatrice is still in danger from Lorenzo who knows she is the only connection left to her Father, so Beatrice takes things into her own hands and starts a physical training regime to at least give her some understanding of the vampire skills and learn how to fight back from their daytime protectors. Beatrice is now very aware of the alliances that must be protected and harboured to give them time to find her father and his mysterious book of alchemy whilst attempting to manage her human relationships. In particular, her best friend Dez, who she is trying to set up with her next door neighbour Matt - of course neither of them know of the family connections between Matt and Gio - and not in the way you are thinking. There is a lot of pain to the main characters from the first book, in particular Carwyn, who is hit the hardest and although he recaptures his sarcasm and wit slowly, you know the hurt has done too much damage. Gio and Beatrice's relationship changes to a new level when the penny finally drops and he realises that his good intentions were not perceived as they were intended - men!

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The Force of Wind by Elizabeth HunterBook cover of The Force of Wind by Elizabeth Hunter

Book blurb: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? What would you sacrifice to kill the one you hate? Join Giovanni Vecchio and Beatrice De Novo as they travel to a hidden island on the far edge of China and seek the help of an ancient immortal court. Can they weave their way through the tangled web of centuries-old alliances and ruthless feuds to find what they’ve been looking for? Friends will be revealed, enemies will find them, and a dangerous secret will come to light. The third book in the Elemental Mysteries series will see Giovanni and Beatrice joined by a group of unlikely allies as they explore the history and myth of the Far East. Many have been stolen, but only one holds the key.

Okay by now, most series have started to wane, but this one hasn't, for me anyway. We now find B and Gio have headed to the mysterious court of Eight Immortals on Penglai Island. This is the highest authority of the vampire world and the eight positions are held by two vampires of each element; it always comes back to balance. B is being guarded by Baojia, Don Ernesto's son who is teaching her to fight with swords. There seems to be an underlying understanding that B will eventually turn into a vampire, it is just a matter of when, but in the meantime she is attempting to learn everything and anything she can to help her in her next life. B's relationship with Tenzin has also mellowed and B finally realises just how old and respected Tenzin is when they all make an appearance at the court, along with the news of her father and the alchemy book. Again Lorenzo is out to get the book at any cost possible and no matter how the court rules he ignores all.

This book has probably got the most disappointment, devastation and surprises in it - there are so many twists and turns and so much sadness, you feel yourself on a rollercoaster. Just as things settle down there is another roadblock on their search for the answers to the elixir of life and the book left behind, so far all they can garner is that it relates to blood, but Geber didn't finish all the work and what he did finish was written in such a code it is almost impossible to decipher. Tenzin plays a much larger role in this book and for the first time she talks about her past and her human life. There is still plenty of humour - B talks about Lorenzo - So, in addition to kidnapping and murder, he is guilty of putting ancient documents at risk? I really have to kill him now." Only someone who loves books could think that way.

There is also some lovely romance in this book - making you realise that it is never too late or you are never too old for someone special to enter your life. Then there is the adage if you wait long enough you will both realise you should be together as highlighted in the romance of Dez and Matt. Plus, not wanting to give anything away, there is a fantastic elopement.

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A Fall of Water by Elizabeth HunterBook cover of A Fall of Water by Elizabeth Hunter

Book blurb: Still grieving from their loss in the far East, Giovanni Vecchio and Beatrice De Novo discover that for them, all roads really do lead to Rome. But nothing is quite as it seems in the Eternal City. Joined by Carwyn and Tenzin, unexpected clashes greet them almost immediately, and rivalries churn beneath the glittering facade of the old Roman court. They quickly realize that allies might be enemies, and ancient rivals could hold the key to a deadly secret. Giovanni and Beatrice will be forced to call on old alliances, ancient power, and fierce cunning to survive for the eternity they both desire. Sometimes, finding the end means going back to the beginning. Fire, Earth, Wind, and Water finally meet with devastating results in the conclusion of the Elemental Mysteries.

A Fall of Water continues to grow the characters and in this book we see more of the humans than in previous books. The adage for this book is no secret stays hidden forever and the biggest secret of all comes to the fore. The Vecchio household hits Rome on the request of Livia, the Empress of the Roman vampire clans. They are soon joined by Carwyn and Tenzin and almost immediately the fireworks start and allies and enemies are something that moves almost as fast as a vampire about to attack. The elixir is now closer than ever to being produced, but nobody knows the side effects, until the ancient rivals come together to explain why it was abandoned initially. This book sees Gio and B separated, in their attempts to overcome the grip Livia has on Rome and to hunt down Lorenzo to make him pay for the hurt he caused Tenzin and B. It is hard to write a review of this book because so much relates to the previous three. However, the characters are multifaceted and have all grown and matured with many changes happening in the Vecchio family. B and Gio are still totally enamoured with each other and realise how special their relationship is, but I have to admit there were a few tears shed - yes I know it is a book, but you invest so much time into a series that you feel part of the story.

Ben has really become an interesting character; he is able to assist in different areas of the vampire business and also becomes a part of everyone’s lives - particularly Tenzin (read the last chapter and you will understand). There is still so much of the story left to tell, that there will definitely be spin-off books. Again the descriptions of parts of history makes the story more interesting and believable, plus any book set in Rome can’t be that bad!

I would rate this as one of the best supernatural series I have read

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