In the wake of the successful movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings
, bookstores have been flooded with new high fantasy. Much of it is derivative and badly written; some is well written and singular. Among the rare and glorious successes is Laurie J. Marks's Fire Logic
, an original, skillfully written, powerfully imagined novel of war and intrigue, a high fantasy that owes little to Tolkien's trilogy, though both are intelligent, adult works that may also be enjoyed by younger readers.
In the world of Fire Logic, the rare individuals born with magic talent are known as elementals, because they possess the power of fire, earth, air, or water. The fire elemental Emil is a Paladin, a Shaftali soldier-scholar who is about to embark on his most desired studies when the invading Sainnites capture the capitol and kill the wizard ruler, leaving no heir; now Emil must become a war commander in the remnants of the Shaftali army. Another fire elemental, Zanja na'Tarwein, is the Ashawala'i Speaker, but she cannot convince her own people of the full danger of the Sainnites. Karis, a half-giant blacksmith, has tremendous earth powers that might defeat the Sainnites--if she weren't addicted to a potent, deadly drug that steals her will. Her guardian, Norina the Truthken, is an air elemental able to see through any lie, yet she is blind to dangerous truths about both her half-giant charge and Paladin treachery. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
The use of magic to combat war has been used to drive fantasy plots since the genre began some with tepid results, and some, as in this case, with compelling effectiveness. In her first novel since Dancing Jack (1993), Marks has created a work filled with an intelligence that zings off the page. The land of Shaftal, occupied by the nasty Sainnites, has just lost its Earth witch ruler and, in doing so, has seemingly lost the magic that the witch held. What follows is bitter guerilla warfare. Into this war comes Zanja na'Tarwein, speaker for the people of the Ashawala'i, a woman who holds the power of elemental fire. What was not her war suddenly becomes personal when the Sainnites turn on her people and obliterate them in one night's battle. As sole survivor, Zanja becomes a resistance fighter, aiding the Shaftali with her premonitions (the gift of fire elementals) and her determination to survive. Zanja is not alone in her quest she becomes friends with other magicians who play vital parts in the war effort: Emil Paladin, a fire elemental; Norina Truthken, an air elemental and a reader of truth; the seer Medric, whose magic may be fire; and the mage Karis, whose very life is a puzzle. It's a neat trick to make the main character die (mostly) and then be "reborn," but it takes an author who can manipulate emotions skillfully to do it more than once. This beautifully written novel avoids the holes in logic typical of most stories of this nature and includes enough blood and adventure to satisfy the most quest-driven readers.
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