Review- Marks, “Fire Logic”

Laurie Marks, “Fire Logic” (2002) – The word I find myself reaching for to describe this fantasy novel is “mature.” It has a very mature outlook on relationships, not denying the passions of its youthful protagonist, Zanja, but also depicting studied, thoughtful portraits of older characters, addicts, people from different and rival cultures. Marks doesn’t indulge in the lengthy worldbuilding of a lot of other fantasy writers- if anything, she errs on the other side, making the rival Shaftal and their Sainnite occupiers less distinct than might make sense. But that’s probably part of the point- Marks depicts well the spiraling violence of an insurgency/counterinsurgency situation, and concludes that Shaftal and Sainnite should put aside their differences and learn to live together on the same land. I get that, I guess, but maybe being an old insurgency student myself I can’t help but think that the Sainnites invaded Shaftal and it’s on them to rectify the situation, possibly by exiting. But anyway- Zanja is not from Shaftal, but from a tribal society living nearby (which the Sainnites eventually massacre in the sort of war crime that doesn’t exactly make you agree with Marks’s peacenik agenda… unless it does, I guess). She’s trained as a diplomat, and is a fireblood- here, many people are imbued with magic from one of the four classical elements. Zanja’s fireblood makes her intuitive, lightly precognitive, as well as willful and fickle. She falls in love with an earth witch who’s addicted to a Sainnite drug, and gets involved with the Shaftal resistance to Sainnite rule, before she begins to see the futility of the situation and its conflicts with her life and those who are close to her. Marks writes decent early-modern (they have gunpowder but only for pistols?) action scenes and her depictions of same-sex relationships seem to me to hold up well now, and must have been a revelation for 2002. Sometimes, her maturity and restraint get the better of her and the narrative drags somewhat as characters go back and forth over their assorted agonizing decisions and efforts to heal. There’s worse things to drag down a narrative, but it made reading more of a slog than it needed to be. ***’

Review- Marks, “Fire Logic”

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