Elemental Magic, Book Two by Laurie J. Marks
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0765309521 PubDate: 03/01/04
Review by Victoria McManus
400 pgs. List price $ 25.95 Buy this book and support SFRevu at Amazon US / Amazon UK
Earth Logic follows Laurie Marks' well-received Fire Logic (May 2002), which won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award. Earth Logic continues the tale of the people of Shaftal and the invading Sainnites, this time addressing the problem from the viewpoint of earth bloods, whose elemental natures are directed by the earth.
Earth bloods are those who humbly and stubbornly repair and sustain life to keep it in its optimum state. Earth logic is always present both in concept and in the book's narrative; it's shown more than told as the characters make tools and cook food and form families. A secondary theme involves books and how they both inform us and change us from within. It's gratifying to think of books as things that repair and sustain us. This theme is also present throughout the novel in the form of oral storytelling, both in the myths presented between the novel's sections and in stories told by the characters to each other.
When the novel begins, Karis G'deon has not yet taken up her destined leadership role among the Shaftali, instead remaining in obscurity, using her magic for carpentry and blacksmithing while she waits for the correct moment to act against the Sainnites in her own way. The fire bloods of the first book, Karis' lover Zanja, the soldier Emil, and Medric the Seer, concurrently lay their own plans to bring the Sainnites down, which involve great sacrifice from Zanja, one of the major driving forces of the novel's plot. The reader is also introduced to Clement, a Sainnite soldier, who is beginning to be sympathetic to the Shaftali she is supposed to be suppressing, and who intersects with Zanja in the novel's latter section.
The Sainnites have occupied Shaftal for so long that they are losing their connection to their native land, and some are beginning to question if they'd be welcomed should they return home. They are beginning to realize that they do not have the resources to return home, anyway. Due to the events of Fire Logic and simple attrition, the Sainnite mastery is fading; however, many commanders refuse to believe it or make compromises. Clement, who is a dedicated second-in-command of the garrison at Watfield, tries to mitigate some of the harsher actions of her superior, General Cadmar, and gradually begins to see more of the Shaftali point of view and incorporate it into her own life. She is representative of a possible future for the Sainnites in Shaftal that would not involve endless oppression and bloodshed. Garland, an humble Sainnite cook, is Clement's opposite at first. He deserted from Watfield and is eventually accepted into the large constructed family of Karis G'deon, along with Zanja, Emil, Medric, the healer J'han, Norina Truthken, and the child Leeba. He assimilates, and in fact helps to make a home for his adopted family through his cooking and housekeeping. Karis' family is Shaftal in microcosm, and their acceptance of Garland mirrors Clement moving beyond the garrison into the actual country she inhabits. Blood relationship is shown to be less important than the relationships we make among ourselves.
Earth Logic is not a book of large battles and heart-stopping chases; rather, it's more gradual and contemplative and inexorable, like the earth bloods who people it. It's a novel of the everyday folk who are often ignored in fantasy novels, the farmers and cooks and healers. In this novel, the everyday lives side by side with the extraordinary, and sometimes within it; Karis herself embodies the power of ordinary, mundane methods to change the world. In the end, she applies her immense magic in simple ways to arrive at a solution that a more flamboyant magical hero might have overlooked entirely. I found the book eminently absorbing and satisfying, like a good, solid meal. If you don't like "traditional" fantasy, give Laurie Marks' work a try.