Laurie J. Marks

Tor / 336 pages / May 2002

ISBN: 0312878877

After you’ve been writing reviews for awhile you start to become somewhat protective of superlatives. After all, there just might be a finite number of stunnings and amazings allotted to each reviewer before the computer implodes in protest. Then, a book like Fire Logic comes along and there’s nothing to do but pour out the highest praise you’ve held in check. Suddenly, words like absorbing, and powerful seem inadequate to describe a book of this calibre.

Fire Logic snares the reader from the first, with quotations from the milestone books of Shaftal, each as different as the characters waiting inside, giving a taste of the struggles to come. Because, once peaceful Shaftal is about to become a land under siege, trying but unable to throw off the violent hold of the Sainnite invaders. With every passing year, there is less of their beloved country for the Shaftali to attempt to reclaim. The war is destroying the very prize they all fight for.

Into this conflict are thrust Zanja, the last of her peaceful people and a prescient of some skill. She will become a determined warrior in pursuit of an end to the occupation and the safety of the woman she loves. Emil wanted only to be a scholar, but war will take him far away from that and join him to Zanja’s quest. Norina is charged with protecting the most important asset of the land, a responsibility that will set her in deadly opposition to Zanja. And, there is the enigmatic Karis, weakened by addiction, but still capable of amazing feats, and the heart of the mystery that may be the salvation or the devastation of Shaftal.

Admirers of Marks’ fiction will not be surprised by her incredibly vivid language and the almost tangible details of the world she creates. Surfacing from a lengthy session of reading Fire Logic (which, by the way, will stretch out without time seeming to pass) is like being snatched back from an alternate reality. A moment for reorientation is advised. Most stunning, perhaps, is the fact that Marks’ achieves this concrete grounding with the force of her characters as much as with her talent for descriptive passages; it is the people in the story who hold us in place, not so much the landscape.

Some of the most intriguing characters are scarcely seen and provoke curiosity all the more. J’han, the husband of the dangerous and disagreeable Norina — what holds him to such a woman and what more is there behind his gentle manner? There seems so much more to know about the gentle and playful Otter People, letting them just slip away is almost painful. And what of the Sainnites? Surely, the reader has seen only the dark side of these invaders. Perhaps Marks will set another novel in this world to answer some of these questions.

Along with the force of her characters’ personalities, Marks’ draws us in with the fire and soft breeze of their emotions. Contained in Fire Logic are some of the most sensual and tender sexual encounters ever captured on paper. She perfectly portrays the timidity, the lust, the uncertainty, of that first connection and the exultation of discovery. The emotion, so raw and vulnerable, is arresting and humbling.

Is it too much to say that a book is absolutely engrossing, that it will transport the reader to another time and place, apparently not if it is Fire Logic. In this case, it may not be saying enough.