The Element of Fire
Martha Wells, 1993, gently revised 2006
Premise: Set in the same world as The Wizard Hunters and its sequels, but takes place centuries prior. In the kingdom of Ile-Rien, the Captain of the Queen’s Guard goes to rescue an academic sorcerer from a dangerous foreign wizard. It seems simple enough, but with power-hungry sycophants circling the young king, who himself seems disinclined to care about the kingdom, everything is part of someone’s plot and everyone will be drawn into the battle for the future of the country.
I really enjoyed this book. Wells seems to have a knack for characters who I find likable because of their abrasive ways. In this book, it’s Kade Carrion, half-fay bastard sister to the king. She’s all sorts of awesome. She could be powerful, but chooses to mostly skate by on her luck and trickery. She’s snarky and sad and simply delightful.
The Dowager Queen Ravenna is pretty spectacular as well. Just because her weak-willed son has reached his majority doesn’t mean she’ll easily give up the power she’s wielded her entire life. She’s often cynical and angry, but also extremely clever and hard, as she’s needed to be to keep her land safe through violent war.
Captain Thomas Boniface is a bit more generic, but he’s a good-hearted sort, although he’s learned enough cynicism and deceit from Ravenna to have survived this long at her side.
The story is easy to follow and trips along at a good pace. I did see one twist coming, but just long enough to really feel the foreshadowing hit. The romantic subplot is well handled, and while it informs characters’ motivations, it never overwhelms the story.
The descriptions of the various fay creatures are great, and the differences between fay magic and human sorcery (only alluded to loosely in the other books in this world) are explored in depth.
Overall, while neither groundbreaking or perfect, I found this to be a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read.
4 Stars - A Very Good Book
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