I’ve heard about Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks for years. It’s one of those books that a lot of people loved when it came out in 2002—and had Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred reviews.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect beyond fantasy and LGBT romantic elements which means, by the way, women as well as men. And the women’s love story is foregrounded by Zanja being the main character and Karis being the most powerful character.
The writing is excellent, both at a sentence level and in terms of characterization. I was extremely taken by Zanja, even if she has to endure rather more than seems feasible—although magic helps her recover. The story turns pretty grim by the third chapter.
The setup is this: Shaftal has fallen to the Sainnites who are violent, murderous and evil. At least from the point of view of the Shaftali rebels and those whose land has been destroyed and family killed. There is magic in this world, and Zanja is a fire elemental who is at times prescient. When she is close to death, she is rescued by Karis, an earth elemental, with the aid of her raven. (I completely enjoyed this device of the sentient or at least vessel-for-sentience raven.)
But Karis, while powerful and able to heal Zanja from terrible injuries, is also a smoke addict who barely functions at times. Her loyal friend Norina is the one who manages to keep Karis going.
There are other important characters: Emil, a commander and fire elemental, who always wanted to be a scholar not a warrior; Madin, a general, one of the few of the inner circle to survive the death of the last G’deon—the fall of Shaftal goes hand in hand with this leader’s death and his lack of an heir; and J’han, Norina’s husband and a healer. There is another whose name I’ll avoid mentioning to avoid spoilers.
A well-constructed mystery surrounds the fall of Shaftal, and I enjoyed its slow reveal, as well as the tensions that surrounded the mystery. (I guess that’s all pretty vague but…spoilers.)
I found the romantic pairings well done and satisfying. The way Zanja and Karis are so strongly drawn to each other is compellingly depicted; I could feel it. Emil’s romance is sweet and less developed, but the book is not about him. Norina and J’han’s complicated relationship is touched on lightly yet felt very real.
In some ways the most fascinating relationship is the friendship between Karis and Norina, in part because it is so tightly tied to the mystery. I’m not sure where things will go from here, plot-wise. I will have to read book two, Earth Logic. Though I could leave it at Fire Logic, where it’s clear our heroes are about to go forth and make the world a better place.
I think romance readers looking for fantasy might enjoy this one.
Two other reviews if your interest is piqued but you’re not sure:
What distinguishes this book, to me, is the careful way it complicates its characters and worldbuilding. It is fundamentally rooted in its characters being three-dimensional…
The magic systems are as intriguingly detailed as the mundane matters of war, but also encompass moments of free-flowing imagination, from a raven that carries a piece of a woman’s soul to a river witch who doles out time in drops of water. […] Her characters are passionate about love and war, the value of books and the fulfillment of blacksmithing, and that fire permeates the novel.