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Water Logic
Laurie J. Marks
Small Beer Press, 352 pages

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Laurie J. Marks
Laurie J. Marks was born in California but came to Massachusetts to go to graduate school. She teaches composition, creative writing, and science fiction at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. There, she lives in a 112-year old Victorian home with her partner, Deb Mensinger.

Laurie J. Marks Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Fire Logic
SF Site Review: Fire Logic

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Margo MacDonald

I have just finished reading the second and third books in Laurie J. Marks' Elemental Logic series (which began with Fire Logic in 2002) and I am now sitting here asking myself why her books aren't on everybody's shelves, holding a place of honour right up there with Robin Hobb and Kage Baker? Despite having written eight novels since the 80s, Marks still remains somewhat on the fringes of the SF world, embraced by a dedicated group of fans but a relative stranger to the SF community at large. True it doesn't help that some of her best work is out of print (Dancing Jack, for one), but with the publication of Water Logic by Small Beer Press (and the fact that the first two books in the series are still available from Tor), no one now has an excuse to avoid discovering this marvelous author.

The Elemental Logic series follows the trials and efforts of a reluctant leader, Karis, and her eccentric and mis-matched self-made family as they try to bring peace to a land and people long stricken with war. She and her family of friends are all blessed (or cursed, as the view might be taken) with elemental magic -- air, water, earth, fire -- each of which has a different way of working and a different way of connecting with the world around them. Karis (like Tolkien's Aragorn) would rather work quietly for good behind the scenes than embrace the position and power of the acknowledged leader, but book three in the series -- the newly released Water Logic -- sees her doing just what she had tried so hard to avoid, and trying to cope with the new challenges this presents for her and all around her. The end of book two, Earth Logic, seemed like a conclusion -- at last Karis takes up the position she was destined to have and peace is declared in the land, but Water Logic shows that declaration of peace was just the beginning. The real battle now is to win over the hearts and minds of the people (still filled with the prejudices, sorrows, and practices of war), and restore the balance of the land.

Marks creates her world and the peoples in it with all the skill and insight of an anthropologist. The myths, customs and taboos of each culture ring true and seem to bear the weight of hundreds of years of history. As the reader spends time with each group, they see more and more clearly how difficult it will be for these different peoples to come to an understanding, and yet it is easy to believe in the main characters and to feel that their struggle to have this come about is necessary and worthwhile. These characters, by the way, are the kind that, as you read each book and get to know them, creep under your skin and rub along with your bones. You walk around with them inside you for a while after putting down the book. Thus the hardest part about reading this series is the waiting -- wondering how long it will be before the next volume comes out!

In some ways, I might say, even Marks loves her characters too well -- bad things might happen to them, but it always comes right in the end; people generally get to be with whomever they love and desire (there is no pining with love unrequited), and relationships seem to be easy -- no unforgivable words spoken in anger; no torturous pairings of people who are just wrong for each other. And, having come from a large family myself, I can attest that the family Karis gathers around her get along just a little too well and a little too easily, especially given the annoying behaviours and habits of some! Also, the children they pass back and forth among them never seem to put a dent in anyone's plans and seem as easy to care for as cats. All in all, if you are going to love somebody, Marks' is the world you'll want to do it in.

And yet there is a darkness here. A violence that threads its way throughout the books. The terrible wrongs done to and by people at war. The loss of friends to sudden death. The fury that burns in a people wronged and wronged again. It is against this backdrop that the simple earth magic Karis wields works its healing little by little; one massive hand-span at a time.

There is always a quiet beauty to Marks' writing; an insidious sense of hope. It is quite clear from reading this series that Marks is an unfailing optimist, but she is not giddy with it. The books seem to say that peace can be had, if all would accept it; that things can be as bad as they can be and turn good again. That people, for all their quirks and annoying foibles, really are wonderful when you get right down to it. All in all, read this book after reading the daily newspaper and somehow the world does seem a little brighter. That is the magic that Marks wields; the magic of ink on paper.

Copyright © 2005 by Margo MacDonald

Margo has always been drawn toward fantasy and, at the age of 5, decided to fill her life with it by pursuing a career as a professional actress. Aside from theatre (and her husband), Margo's passion has been for books. Her interests are diverse and eclectic, but the bulk fall within the realm of speculative fiction. She tells us that her backlog has reached 200 books and she's ready to win the lottery and retire.

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