The Element of Fire by Martha Wells, © 1993, hardback, Tor Books
This is the 34th in my series of Forgotten Books
Ok, I guess I should occasionally do a fantasy novel here since we cover science fiction, fantasy and horror. Last week’s title WEBB’S WEIRD WILD WEST fell more into the horror genre than fantasy though there were elements of all three present.
I have no idea when I first met Martha Wells. She went to Texas A&M University and was a part of the Cepheid Variable group which puts on AggieCon so I know it must have been there, since I have missed only one AggieCon since 1973 and that was do to a truly violent illness coming up as I was preparing to leave and the idea of traveling from San Antonio to College Station with the possibility of needing to make emergency stops just did not appeal. So I guess I have known Martha some 25 years or so, give or take a few.
THE ELEMENT OF FIRE is her first novel and it is a dandy. It has all the adventure of an Errol Flynn or Stewart Grainger swashbuckling film with some magic thrown in to boot. Thomas Boniface is the Captain of the Queen’s Guard of the kingdom of Ile-Rien. In this case, it is the Dowager Queen Ravenna who’s son Roland has become King upon the death of his father and Ravenna’s husband. The Dowager Queen still possesses great power in the court and throughout the land and the King is terrified of his mother.
Thomas has been charged with finding the renegade sorcerer Urbain Grandier who has kidnapped a leading sorcerer Galen Dubell and is threatening the kingdom. Dubell is rescued by Grandier escapes. Roland’s half sister, Kade Carrion, shows up unexpectedly. Kade is offspring of Roland’s father and Moire, a Queen of Fayre (Faerie to most of us). Kade’s mother has been tricked into a bad wager and has been spirited off to Hell. Kade is now the Queen of Air and Darkness, even though she is half human, half fay. Throw in some wonderful political machinations and you have a rolicking thriller.
While not quite as political as George R. R. Martin’s SONG OF FIRE AND ICE, the political infighting is a major portion of the book. And to be fair, Martha has 400 pages and GRRM has 2,500 or more pages. Still this is somewhat like a weird version of PRISONER OF ZENDA, without the impersonation, with magic thrown in.
I’m not going to give much more of a synopsis here, because it means giving up some great plot twists. Let’s just say if you like that type of book, you will love THE ELEMENT OF FIRE.
Previously Martha had published seven novels with Tor, including THE DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER which was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel (and well deserving of that nomination) and two Stargate Atlantis books. But there has been a long slump between novels. I see that Night Shade Books is publishing a new novel this spring entitled THE CLOUD ROADS in March 2011. I will be on board for that one and I hope you give it a look too.
THE ELEMENT OF FIRE is currently in print as a trade paperback. Used copies of the paperback are readily available. Fine copies of the first edition can get a little pricy as it is a first novel with a corresponding smaller print run.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.