Originally posted 10/19/10 in my meta/review blog
I tend to dislike the plotline of “band of patriots versus the evil invaders,” so one of the things I like about Fire Logic is that it does not really use that trope. I have also gotten slightly tired of the “lost heir” trope. Instead, we have “non-evil but slightly stupidly desperate refugee soldiers versus equally desperate patriots who are slowly alienating themselves from their own people because their own people are deeply sick of the fighting.” There is also a “lost heir,” but the aforementioned desperate patriots judge the lost heir unfit to be the heir.
Our protagonists are three “fire blood” elementals who are at varying points completely bonkers by anyone else’s standards. One is a woman of a border tribe that was wiped out by the Sainnite invaders, one is a Shaftali Paladin, and the third is a half-Sainnite seer. People with “fire logic” tend to be wildly intuitive, subject to dreams and visions and spend a lot of time seeming to talk to themselves a lot. They approach everything as a metaphor for something else. (The air element is described as extremely sharp and analytical. Air and fire do not get along too well because air talents are driven completely bonkers by fire talents and their seemingly random intuitive leaps.)
Zanja na’Tarwein is the Speaker for a border tribe. This means that she’s an advisor and a diplomat. When the G’deon (the person who more or less “rules” Shaftal) dies she is slightly out of a job, because the G’deon directly protects the border tribes by saying, “if you don’t leave them alone I and Shaftal will kick your butt.” She returns home, though she occasionally makes trips into Shaftal to see what’s going on so she can better protect her tribe.
Zanja has premonitions that the Sainnites who have invaded Shaftal are going to be trouble for her tribe, but she isn’t able to convince her elders to do anything about it. When her premonitions come true and her tribe is destroyed, she and a band of surviving warriors harry the Sainnite regiment and she is eventually captured. She ends up in prison, but is rescued by a half-Sainnite earth witch named Karis who heals her and takes her out of prison.
Karis is an earth witch with phenomenal power, and Zanja is very much drawn to her. Unfortunately, Karis’ friend and caretaker Norina doesn’t trust Zanja, and definitely doesn’t want a fire blood elemental around Karis. (Norina is a Truthken, an air elemental who can immediately discern the truth. Her usual job is to serve as judge and executioner when necessary.) Zanja can see something is very wrong with the situation, and gradually learns that Karis is suffering from an addiction to a Sainnite drug that causes extreme physical addiction–in addition to being a phenomenally powerful earth-witch.
Norina eventually drives Zanja off (more or less) and Zanja meets a man named Emil, who is a Paladin. She works with him to fight the Sainnites, and they become very close friends. Their fire talents lead them to eventually discover the third fire elemental, Medric, who would like very much for the war to end despite (or because of) technically being the enemy. Zanja learns that the destruction of her tribe was because another seer made a very bad mistake and took a vision a little too literally. (This does not stop Zanja for being furious with the Sainnites.) Zanja manages to make friends with Medric, and helps him escape from the garrison he’d been serving in. This gets her in trouble with the Paladins, and eventually results in both Emil resigning his command and hooking up with Medric, and with Zanja being reunited with Karis.
Zanja discovers that Karis is actually the G’deon. The previous G’deon gave her his powers, but Mabin, the last of his Councilors decided in her pointy little head that Karis was just a placeholder. Zanja and the other two fire talents don’t agree with the assessment, and their disagreement causes Mabin to panic, and nearly kill Karis. Norina, who had previously been in Mabin’s camp, decides that she should support Karis, and turns against Mabin. Eventually, Karis is able to heal herself, and in retaliation for Mabin generally being a horrible sanctimonious twit (and kidnapping Zanja) Karis sticks an iron spike in Mabin’s heart. (Which doesn’t kill her. This is Karis’ way of letting you know you might possibly want to rethink your reasoning.)
Karis does not actually want anything to do with being G’deon. (She’s willing to act as one in other ways, but doesn’t want to go back to the old system.) On the other hand, she does have some sense of responsibility, so what happens is that she and her motley band of fire talents and one air talent head off to settle down and figure out what the heck to do next.
Marks’ stories remind me a little bit of LeGuin’s writing in moral tone. I generally enjoy her writing, though her books don’t seem to stay in print for very long. (And are often impossible to find in used bookstores later.)