cover image The Element of Fire

The Element of Fire

Martha Wells. Tor Books, $23.95 (413pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85374-7

In this rich fantasy debut, the medieval-like country of Ile-Rien is threatened by internal turmoil and invasion by the forces of the Fayre. Ile-Rien, ruled in name by weak young King Roland but in fact by the Dowager Queen Ravenna, becomes the staging area for the sorcerer Urbain Grandier's vengeance against his native land, where he had been the victim of an inquisition mounted against magic. Thomas Boniface, captain of the Queen's Guard and Ravenna's former lover, aids the dowager in her fight to maintain stability and counter the pernicious influence of powerful nobles. The political balance is further upset when the court sorcerer dies, weakening the palace's defenses against Fayre and allowing Kade Carrion, the king's illegitimate half-sister, whose mother was the Fayre Queen of Air and Darkness, to return to court after many years of banishment. Skillfully blending the fantastical and the mundane, Wells delights with deft and sympathetic characterization while demonstrating a fine touch for adventure. (July)