The use of magic to combat war has been used to drive fantasy plots since the genre began—some with tepid results, and some, as in this case, with compelling effectiveness. In her first novel since Dancing Jack (1993), Marks has created a work filled with an intelligence that zings off the page. The land of Shaftal, occupied by the nasty Sainnites, has just lost its Earth witch ruler and, in doing so, has seemingly lost the magic that the witch held. What follows is bitter guerilla warfare. Into this war comes Zanja na'Tarwein, speaker for the people of the Ashawala'i, a woman who holds the power of elemental fire. What was not her war suddenly becomes personal when the Sainnites turn on her people and obliterate them in one night's battle. As sole survivor, Zanja becomes a resistance fighter, aiding the Shaftali with her premonitions (the gift of fire elementals) and her determination to survive. Zanja is not alone in her quest—she becomes friends with other magicians who play vital parts in the war effort: Emil Paladin, a fire elemental; Norina Truthken, an air elemental and a reader of truth; the seer Medric, whose magic may be fire; and the mage Karis, whose very life is a puzzle. It's a neat trick to make the main character die (mostly) and then be "reborn," but it takes an author who can manipulate emotions skillfully to do it more than once. This beautifully written novel avoids the holes in logic typical of most stories of this nature and includes enough blood and adventure to satisfy the most quest-driven readers. (May 21)
Forecast:After the author's nine-year hiatus, blurbs from the likes of Robin Hobb, Candas Jane Dorsey and Suzy McKee Charnas will help restore Marks's fantasy readership.
Release date: 05/01/2002