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Fire Logic
Laurie Marks
Tor Books, 335 pages

Fire Logic
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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Margo MacDonald

It's been nine years since Laurie J. Marks has released a novel. (Her last was Dancing Jack in 1993.) Nine years of waiting and wondering -- asking everyone I think might know, 'What's happened to Laurie J. Marks? When is she going to write again? Has she been writing under another name and I just don't know about it? Where is she?!?' Nobody knew. Nine years is a long time to wait for an author as subtly brilliant as Laurie J. Marks to make another appearance on the scene, but now finally she is back ('and there was much rejoicing') with Fire Logic, an exquisite novel of quiet charm.

Fire Logic is a tale of war and magic, of duty, love and betrayal, of despair encompassed by hope. The magic in this world is inherent to the people who wield it -- it is in their blood and part of their soul -- and though most people do not carry magic in them, every once in a while a child is born with it as part of their DNA. There are four types, based on the four elements of water, air, earth and fire. The type of magic as well as the personality of the wielder are determined by which element is in their blood. Earth blood means healer; water means time and space; air means truth-seeing; and fire means prescience and passion.

The book begins with a world governed by this delicate balance being thrown into turmoil when the leader dies without naming a successor. A foreign army invades, destroying the land, enslaving the people (with a highly addictive mind-numbing drug called 'smoke'), annihilating the out-land tribes, and taking all for themselves. A group of soldiers carries out a campaign to try to drive the attackers off, but it is a long and losing battle. It is here among these rebel soldiers, known as paladins, that we spend most of our time as readers with two of the book's main characters, Emil and Zanja. Here amid the blood, the mud, sudden death, and shattered limbs, despair is at its height and there seems to be no possible good outcome to the tale. But, there is a rogue element -- a woman named Karis, a healer of infinite power and strength, partially subdued by her addiction to 'smoke'. She saves Zanja from rotting to death because the earth tells her to. But why? And what will the aligning of the elemental magics bring about? That is the core of the story, and the hope this possibility brings is what keeps the reader turning the pages right up to the satisfying conclusion.

Essentially, Fire Logic is a war novel in a fantasy setting. But in Marks' gentle care, it becomes much more. As the characters search their souls for their motives, and make mistakes, and seek to justify their actions we are drawn into something deeper than just a question of how does the land find peace. It becomes a rather quiet look at how does each person find peace. Suddenly, somewhere along the way, you realize that you are experiencing the characters from the inside out, though when it happened or just how Marks manages to do it is impossible to say. But there you are, struggling with them, feeling the tearing of their muscles and the pounding of their hearts -- hoping for their redemption, but not knowing from which direction (or element) it will come.

It's a thinking person's adventure. Or, perhaps more accurately, a thinking woman's adventure. For the best thing about Fire Logic, as it is with all of Marks' work, is that the women in her worlds are treated no differently from the men. They have equal power and equal vulnerability. You will never know for sure whether the 'Captain' being spoken of is a man or a woman until Marks specifically refers to her as a she or to the 'seer' as a he. It is the same with love. Love between woman and woman or man and man is just as accepted, expected and as common as love between woman and man in Marks' worlds. It is all very refreshing, particularly as Marks manages to present this equality in such a quiet and simple manner that you don't feel like there is any agenda attached to it. You are not being beaten about the head with a political message. In Laurie J. Marks' fantasy worlds, this is just how it is. Perhaps one day, if we are lucky, this ideal will not be confined to the realm of fantasy.

If the book has any real failing, it is a tendency to be over-sentimental in the end. It is perhaps a little too romantic, a little too perfect (think 40s movies). But I find I am willing to forgive the mush, especially after all the trauma and heartache that comes before it in the story.

Overall, its a compelling, turbulent ride through despair to hope and enlightenment (and isn't it always!).

Welcome back Laurie, thanks for toughing it out and bringing us this far-reaching tale.

Copyright © 2002 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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