I am offering to write a post to benefit [livejournal.com profile] debsliverlovers, a community to help Deb Messinger, the wife of fantasy author Laurie Marks.

In yet another example of how the lack of universal health care forces people in the US to hold bake sales to save their own lives, Deb has liver failure and needs a transplant. Her brother is a possible donor, but since he doesn't have insurance, they need to raise the money to fly him out and get him tested to even figure out if he's a possibility.

The auction has some amazing items, including another post offer by [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink, original art by Terri Windling (and Charles Vess!), and autographed books by Kate Elliot, Delia Sherman, Martha Wells, Alaya Johnson, Caroline Stevermer, and many more. Check it out!
I am offering to write a post to benefit [livejournal.com profile] debsliverlovers, a community to help Deb Messinger, the wife of fantasy author Laurie Marks.

In yet another example of how the lack of universal health care forces people in the US to hold bake sales to save their own lives, Deb has liver failure and needs a transplant. Her brother is a possible donor, but since he doesn't have insurance, they need to raise the money to fly him out and get him tested to even figure out if he's a possibility.

The auction has some amazing items, including another post offer by [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink, original art by Terri Windling (and Charles Vess!), and autographed books by Kate Elliot, Delia Sherman, Martha Wells, Alaya Johnson, Caroline Stevermer, and many more. Check it out!
This was way, way better-constructed than Earth Logic, more intellectually satisfying but less emotionally intense. Great plot construction and excellent stories for Zanja and two newish characters, the ex-soldier Damon and the new politician Seth. Clement's story was interesting but didn't get as much screentime; other characters made a big impression when they were onstage, but weren't onstage much.

There were lots of excellent individual scenes and revelations, of which my favorites involved the herding dogs.

Read more )
This was way, way better-constructed than Earth Logic, more intellectually satisfying but less emotionally intense. Great plot construction and excellent stories for Zanja and two newish characters, the ex-soldier Damon and the new politician Seth. Clement's story was interesting but didn't get as much screentime; other characters made a big impression when they were onstage, but weren't onstage much.

There were lots of excellent individual scenes and revelations, of which my favorites involved the herding dogs.

Read more )
There's a lot to like about this book, including some luscious food descriptions and an excellent plot strand about a female commander who changes and grows. Plus babies and children described in a non-sappy manner. However, if most of the cast had climbed into an insanity-inducing Gundam or been poisoned with crazy-making drugs or had any other rationale for their sudden attack of collective nuttiness, the entire second half of the book would have made a lot more sense.

You want to do what why? )

Well, I did still order Water Logic, so this obviously didn't completely ruin the book for me. But I hope nothing like it happens in the next one.
There's a lot to like about this book, including some luscious food descriptions and an excellent plot strand about a female commander who changes and grows. Plus babies and children described in a non-sappy manner. However, if most of the cast had climbed into an insanity-inducing Gundam or been poisoned with crazy-making drugs or had any other rationale for their sudden attack of collective nuttiness, the entire second half of the book would have made a lot more sense.

You want to do what why? )

Well, I did still order Water Logic, so this obviously didn't completely ruin the book for me. But I hope nothing like it happens in the next one.
I re-read this and Earth Logic this weekend in preparation for the impending arrival of Water Logic. Fire Logic: Still great. Earth Logic: Large portions still work beautifully, but the characters still seem to have been subjected to an unexplained Gundam-verse-like insanity field.

Since my original review of the first book seems to have vanished from Green Man Review's archives, I'm reprinting it below. Please do not spoil the second book in comments. I will put up a spoilery review for it later.

If you prowl the fantasy sections of used bookshops in search of hidden gems, you may recognize the name of Laurie J. Marks. You may have come across one of her paperbacks, maybe the odd and eerie Watcher's Mask, or the dark yet quirky Dancing Jack. You may have read one of those, and felt that while it was populated with interestingly flawed characters, set in a detailed and believable world, and was quite original in an understated way, its strengths were also its weaknesses: too distant to allow emotional scenes to spill over with passion, too grounded to let fantasy take flight, too sober to give action sequences their full measure of excitement.

You may have nonetheless decided that Laurie J. Marks was a promising writer, and waited for a new book by her, hoping that in it her gifts would flourish and her shortcomings would be overcome. You would have waited a long time.

But that new book is here at last, and it fulfills those hopes. Fire Logic is a gritty and moving tale of guerilla warfare and magic in an occupied land.

A few of the people in the land of Shaftal are born with magical talents corresponding to the four elements of alchemy: earth, fire, water, and air. The G'deon is the most powerful earth witch in Shaftal, and is charged with protecting the country from invaders. But the last G'deon dies without passing his power on to a successor. Without that magical protection, Shaftal falls to foreign invaders, the Sainnites.

Two fire witches, the former ambassador Zanja and the soldier-scholar Emil, fight in a guerilla campaign to liberate their country. As years pass and their hopes of success grow ever-smaller, their lives intertwine with those of Medric, a Sainnite dissenter, and Karis, a half-giant earth witch who has great powers, but is addicted to a disabling drug that will kill her if she stops using it.

These characters and others have the prickly complexity of real people. They have hobbies and get in petty feuds, get pregnant and learn new trades, and make startling decisions that, in retrospect, seem inevitable.

Marks anchors her fantasy with a wealth of realistic detail, and the politics and social structures of the different cultures are believably complex and varied. In her world, guerilla commanders use charts to keep track of food deliveries, women have casual affairs as well as long-term relationships, and soldiers who are wounded in Chapter Six are still limping in Chapter Twenty.

But she doesn't skimp on the magic, which is more complex than its labels indicate: fire witches don't deal with literal fire, but have elusive mental powers of clairvoyance and insight; air witches know when people are lying, but can't tell if they're repeating false information that they believe is true. The magic systems are as intriguingly detailed as the mundane matters of war, but also encompass moments of free-flowing imagination, from a raven that carries a piece of a woman's soul to a river witch who doles out time in drops of water.

The realism that grounded Marks' other novels is also present in this one, but this time it's balanced by emotion. Her characters are passionate about love and war, the value of books and the fulfillment of blacksmithing, and that fire permeates the novel.

The book isn't perfect; it's sometimes over-explicit and preachy, there are some jarringly abrupt transitions, and there are too many silly names with apostrophes in them. But those are minor flaws. From the ethics of warfare to the dangers of love, Marks tackles serious topics in an unusually perceptive and nuanced fashion. It's an ambitious novel, and for the most part her ambition is borne out by her skill.

Though it's not indicated in any way on the book itself, it's the first in a series of four. And while it's unusually self-contained for the first of a series, it's clear by the end that the story is not yet over. It's a journey on which I'm eager to travel.
I re-read this and Earth Logic this weekend in preparation for the impending arrival of Water Logic. Fire Logic: Still great. Earth Logic: Large portions still work beautifully, but the characters still seem to have been subjected to an unexplained Gundam-verse-like insanity field.

Since my original review of the first book seems to have vanished from Green Man Review's archives, I'm reprinting it below. Please do not spoil the second book in comments. I will put up a spoilery review for it later.

If you prowl the fantasy sections of used bookshops in search of hidden gems, you may recognize the name of Laurie J. Marks. You may have come across one of her paperbacks, maybe the odd and eerie Watcher's Mask, or the dark yet quirky Dancing Jack. You may have read one of those, and felt that while it was populated with interestingly flawed characters, set in a detailed and believable world, and was quite original in an understated way, its strengths were also its weaknesses: too distant to allow emotional scenes to spill over with passion, too grounded to let fantasy take flight, too sober to give action sequences their full measure of excitement.

You may have nonetheless decided that Laurie J. Marks was a promising writer, and waited for a new book by her, hoping that in it her gifts would flourish and her shortcomings would be overcome. You would have waited a long time.

But that new book is here at last, and it fulfills those hopes. Fire Logic is a gritty and moving tale of guerilla warfare and magic in an occupied land.

A few of the people in the land of Shaftal are born with magical talents corresponding to the four elements of alchemy: earth, fire, water, and air. The G'deon is the most powerful earth witch in Shaftal, and is charged with protecting the country from invaders. But the last G'deon dies without passing his power on to a successor. Without that magical protection, Shaftal falls to foreign invaders, the Sainnites.

Two fire witches, the former ambassador Zanja and the soldier-scholar Emil, fight in a guerilla campaign to liberate their country. As years pass and their hopes of success grow ever-smaller, their lives intertwine with those of Medric, a Sainnite dissenter, and Karis, a half-giant earth witch who has great powers, but is addicted to a disabling drug that will kill her if she stops using it.

These characters and others have the prickly complexity of real people. They have hobbies and get in petty feuds, get pregnant and learn new trades, and make startling decisions that, in retrospect, seem inevitable.

Marks anchors her fantasy with a wealth of realistic detail, and the politics and social structures of the different cultures are believably complex and varied. In her world, guerilla commanders use charts to keep track of food deliveries, women have casual affairs as well as long-term relationships, and soldiers who are wounded in Chapter Six are still limping in Chapter Twenty.

But she doesn't skimp on the magic, which is more complex than its labels indicate: fire witches don't deal with literal fire, but have elusive mental powers of clairvoyance and insight; air witches know when people are lying, but can't tell if they're repeating false information that they believe is true. The magic systems are as intriguingly detailed as the mundane matters of war, but also encompass moments of free-flowing imagination, from a raven that carries a piece of a woman's soul to a river witch who doles out time in drops of water.

The realism that grounded Marks' other novels is also present in this one, but this time it's balanced by emotion. Her characters are passionate about love and war, the value of books and the fulfillment of blacksmithing, and that fire permeates the novel.

The book isn't perfect; it's sometimes over-explicit and preachy, there are some jarringly abrupt transitions, and there are too many silly names with apostrophes in them. But those are minor flaws. From the ethics of warfare to the dangers of love, Marks tackles serious topics in an unusually perceptive and nuanced fashion. It's an ambitious novel, and for the most part her ambition is borne out by her skill.

Though it's not indicated in any way on the book itself, it's the first in a series of four. And while it's unusually self-contained for the first of a series, it's clear by the end that the story is not yet over. It's a journey on which I'm eager to travel.
These are the first and third books in a fantasy trilogy in which each book apparently stands fairly well on its own; at least, the ones I read did. I haven't yet found the second book, The Moonbane Mage.

They're set in a world made largely of crystal and occupied by five sentient races, one of which is only discovered in the third book. Walkers are a conservative, agricultural humanoid species; their mages tend to specialize in the more sadistic forms of magic. They have two genders and an egalitarian society, and lay eggs.

Delan, who hatched from an egg of dubious pedigree, is a misfit: deformed, slow to develop, and asexual. You can probably guess where this is going. Yes, id is not a Walker at all, but an Aeyrie, whose hermaphroditic sexual organs develop, along with their wings, at puberty. Unfortunately for Delan, id is enslaved by a Walker magician and embroiled in Aeyrie plots before id can claim ids true identity.

This intense Ugly Duckling story is an old one, but made fresh by the odd setting and lack of human characters.

Ara's Field picks up about twenty years later, when three of the five races have formed a loose alliance. Delan reappears, having apparently changed a great deal in the interim, along with a number of other sympathetic characters. This book suffers from the author's good will toward alienkind: virtually everyone is basically good at heart, and even the characters who are trying to destroy the world prove amenable to reasonable discussion. (A good deal more so than the average Bush or Kerry supporter.) The end of the world is averted-- offstage.

These books sum up both what I like and dislike about Laurie Marks' novels, with the exception of her most recent Logic novels, which are more integrated and accomplished. They're heartfelt, ambitious, and intelligent; sex-positive, feminist, and humane; and avoid many of the common fantasy cliches.

On the other hand, they are, if not quite cliched, at least thoroughly unsurprising to anyone who's read many books by Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda N. McIntyre, or Eleanor Arnason: wars may be averted rather than fought, the grubby little details of everyday life are as important as the grand society-changing moments, every society has good and bad points, nobody's pure good or pure evil, and few people are purely heterosexual. But Marks isn't content to present events and let the reader decide what message to take from them: she has to explain and comment on and elucidate everything, and it gives her novels a rather medicinal air.

In some ways I see Laurie Marks as a kind of poor man's Ursula Le Guin: they have similar concerns, but Marks' prose lacks Le Guin's wit and poetic clarity. Marks' ideas revolve around a lot of the same issues, but without the single unforgettable image that crystallizes them: the child in the basement in "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," the true names in A Wizard of Earthsea, the time dilation in "Semley's Necklace."

My other problem with these books is that for fantasy, there isn't enough magic. I don't mean not enough spell-casting; I mean not enough wondrousness. Everything is very deliberately mundane. While I did enjoy the books, I think I would have liked them better as sf, where a sentence like this would not have given me such a moment of total agreement with Le Guin's essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie," on tone in fantasy:

"Orchths and Mers both are a migratory, food-gathering people with homogenous societies."

Coffee and ink has a nice overview of these and the rest of Marks' books here:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/coffee_and_ink/366227.html
These are the first and third books in a fantasy trilogy in which each book apparently stands fairly well on its own; at least, the ones I read did. I haven't yet found the second book, The Moonbane Mage.

They're set in a world made largely of crystal and occupied by five sentient races, one of which is only discovered in the third book. Walkers are a conservative, agricultural humanoid species; their mages tend to specialize in the more sadistic forms of magic. They have two genders and an egalitarian society, and lay eggs.

Delan, who hatched from an egg of dubious pedigree, is a misfit: deformed, slow to develop, and asexual. You can probably guess where this is going. Yes, id is not a Walker at all, but an Aeyrie, whose hermaphroditic sexual organs develop, along with their wings, at puberty. Unfortunately for Delan, id is enslaved by a Walker magician and embroiled in Aeyrie plots before id can claim ids true identity.

This intense Ugly Duckling story is an old one, but made fresh by the odd setting and lack of human characters.

Ara's Field picks up about twenty years later, when three of the five races have formed a loose alliance. Delan reappears, having apparently changed a great deal in the interim, along with a number of other sympathetic characters. This book suffers from the author's good will toward alienkind: virtually everyone is basically good at heart, and even the characters who are trying to destroy the world prove amenable to reasonable discussion. (A good deal more so than the average Bush or Kerry supporter.) The end of the world is averted-- offstage.

These books sum up both what I like and dislike about Laurie Marks' novels, with the exception of her most recent Logic novels, which are more integrated and accomplished. They're heartfelt, ambitious, and intelligent; sex-positive, feminist, and humane; and avoid many of the common fantasy cliches.

On the other hand, they are, if not quite cliched, at least thoroughly unsurprising to anyone who's read many books by Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda N. McIntyre, or Eleanor Arnason: wars may be averted rather than fought, the grubby little details of everyday life are as important as the grand society-changing moments, every society has good and bad points, nobody's pure good or pure evil, and few people are purely heterosexual. But Marks isn't content to present events and let the reader decide what message to take from them: she has to explain and comment on and elucidate everything, and it gives her novels a rather medicinal air.

In some ways I see Laurie Marks as a kind of poor man's Ursula Le Guin: they have similar concerns, but Marks' prose lacks Le Guin's wit and poetic clarity. Marks' ideas revolve around a lot of the same issues, but without the single unforgettable image that crystallizes them: the child in the basement in "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," the true names in A Wizard of Earthsea, the time dilation in "Semley's Necklace."

My other problem with these books is that for fantasy, there isn't enough magic. I don't mean not enough spell-casting; I mean not enough wondrousness. Everything is very deliberately mundane. While I did enjoy the books, I think I would have liked them better as sf, where a sentence like this would not have given me such a moment of total agreement with Le Guin's essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie," on tone in fantasy:

"Orchths and Mers both are a migratory, food-gathering people with homogenous societies."

Coffee and ink has a nice overview of these and the rest of Marks' books here:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/coffee_and_ink/366227.html
.

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