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The Element of Fire by Martha Wells

The Element of Fire (1993)

by Martha Wells

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Ile-Rien (1)

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4341235,605 (4.02)63



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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
I took four chapters -- and over two hours of the audiobook -- before becoming completely captivated. The beginning’s neither slow nor uneventful, and I liked the vibe of the worldbuilding, but I didn’t know why I should care. Thomas Boniface, captain of the Queen’s Guard, rescues one sorcerer, Dubell, from the clutches of another, Grandier. The latter continues to pose a threat. There’s palace intrigue: the young king is easily manipulated by his cousin; the dowager queen fiercely wields what power she can.

But when the king’s half-sister, the Fay sorceress Kade, confronts her brother and his mother for the first time in nearly a decade, something clicked. Here is the story’s fraught, emotional heart. Soon after, the the palace is attacked and the tension skyrockets. That was the point where I decided that I need to read everything Wells has written.

It would have been easy to begin the book with Kade, with her motives and her sympathetic qualities. If it had, I might have warmed to it faster. However, being introduced to her as others see her, mysteriously and dangerously powerful, and wondering -- as Thomas does -- about what she wants and whether she can be trusted, was actually very effective. I really enjoyed being surprised by Kade. I also enjoyed Thomas’ flashes of humour, and the interactions both of them have with members of the royal family. (It was interesting, seeing hints of dynamics here which are much more overt in the Raksura courts.) I have mixed feelings about what happens in the end, but that seems like the right reaction, somehow.

I liked this so much more than I was expecting to.

“Why would we want to deal with you, sister?” Contempt twisted his voice. “You've threatened us, ridiculed us--”
“Threatened? Oh, what a King you are, Roland.” Kade clasped her hands dramatically and said mockingly in falsetto, “Oh, help, my sister is threatening me!” She looked down at her brother, lip curled in disgust. “If I wanted to kill you, you would be dead.”
( )
  Herenya | Nov 4, 2018 |
This book shows a lot promise, a lot of elements which could have developed into a fine story. As it stands it is a bit jerky and depends on constant action and mostly well established relationships, with not quite believable interactions. Fortunately the author got much much better. ( )
  quondame | Dec 2, 2017 |
Martha Wells debut novel, the first in the Ile-Rein series.

I found it a bit slow to get started but once I felt comfortable in the world and the pace picked up I enjoyed it tremendously.

Lots of court intrigue, a young King who has no idea what he's doing, his mother the real brains behind the throne. When the country is attaced by Fairy, the fact that the king's half sister, a half fey herself, shows up and muddles the picture of just who is up to what, and who to trust. ( )
  majkia | Mar 18, 2017 |
The best fantasy I’ve read in at least a year. If you enjoy GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire series, you should pick this book up as well. The old king is dead. In his place rules his only living son, the weak and ineffectual King Roland, who is utterly at the command of his treacherous childhood friend. It falls to the dowager queen Ravenna and her faithful, but aging, Captain of the Queen’s Guard to keep the country together. Into this already explosive situation comes Roland’s bastard sister Kaid, who is the fey daughter of the Queen of Air and Darkness, and a serial killing renegade magician. Internecine court politics, well-rounded characters, and a whole lot of adventure combine to make this a truly enjoyable book. ( )
1 vote wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
The Element of Fire is Martha Wells debut fantasy novel, which is she put up for free online after it became hard to find in the US. While I don’t think it’s the best Martha Wells novel I’ve read, it’s still an enjoyable read. The Element of Fire focuses on court politics in Il-Rien, a setting similar to 16th century European courts. Urbain Grandier, a powerful master of sorcery, is plotting against the throne of King Roland, who mainly leaves ruling to his mother, the Dowager Queen Ravenna. Meanwhile, Kade, the illegitimate daughter of the former king and a fairy queen, has also arrived in Il-Rien.

My favorite part of The Element of Fire is the characterization of the central characters, in particular the two leads. The narrative alternates between the POV of Kade and Thomas Boniface, Captain of the Queen’s Guard. Kade manages to have something of the otherworldly Fey about her while still remaining a fully formed and intelligent lead. Thomas, Ravenna’s former lover, is dutiful and also has a wonderful wit. Ravenna was another stand out character for me. She is forceful and determined, an older woman who still remains at the center of power.

While I liked the main characters, I did have some trouble keeping track of the secondary characters, especially in the first half of the novel. There’s still some plot points there I think I missed because of it. The Element of Fire begins in the middle of the action, which was exciting but meant that it took me a while to be able to figure out what was going on.

While there weren’t any gaping holes in the setting, it felt a bit bare boned. There wasn’t the imagination you can see in many of Wells’ other settings, and it didn’t have the atmosphere of The Death of the Necromancer. The fairy elements especially could have used more exploration.

While it could be slow moving in parts, I really enjoyed The Element of Fire for its complex characterization and likable leads. If you’re unfamiliar with Martha Wells, I’d suggest trying one of her later books first, but The Element of Fire is still a book I would recommend.

Originally on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Jan 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
It’s Martha Wells’ debut novel, and ...singularly accomplished. It situates itself at a remove from the faux-medievalism of high fantasy ... it has the flavour of ancien régime France while being wholly, entirely, its own thing.

Wells’ deftness of characterisation is delicate, precise and astute. An outside attack ... intensifies the amount of politicking and the coming-to-fruition of treasonous plots. The characters, down to the least of them, are no blank placeholders. Wells has a fantastic touch for conjuring personality in all of her work, and here the characters of Kade and Thomas, particularly—Kade roguish, damaged, fey and honourable in her own way; Thomas world-weary, cynical, and loyal where his loyalty is given—come alive in their interactions with their world.
added by feeling.is.first | editTor.com, Liz Bourke (Apr 15, 2013)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Martha Wellsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Peterson, EricCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A New Philosophy calls all in doubt,
The Element of fire is quite put out:
The Sun is lost, and th'earth, and no man's wit
Can well direct him where to looke for it.
—John Donne, "An Anatomie of the World"
First words
The grappling hook skittered across the rain-slick stone of the ledge before dropping to catch in the grillwork below the third-story window.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0615135714, Paperback)

The Element of Fire was first published in the US by Tor Books in 1993, and has been published in six languages. It was a finalist for the 1993 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award and a runner-up for the 1994 Crawford Award. This new edition has b

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:54 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The kingdom of Ile-Rien lies in peril, menaced by sorcerous threats and devious court intrigues. As the weak King Roland, flattered and misled by treacherous companions, rules the country, only his ruthless mother, the Dowager Queen Ravenna, guards the safety of the realm. But now rumors arise that Urbain Grandier, the dark master of scientific sorcery, has arrived to plot against the throne. And Kade, bastard sister of King Roland, appears unexpectedly at court. The illegitimate daughter of the old king and the Queen of Air and Darkness herself, Kade's true desires are cloaked in mystery. Is she in league with the wizard Grandier, or is she laying claim to the throne?It falls to Thomas Boniface, Captain of the Queen's Guard and Ravenna's former lover, to sort out who is friend and who is foe in a deadly game to keep the Dowager Queen and the kingdom she loves from harm. But is one man's steel enough to counter all the magic of fayre?… (more)

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