Laurie J. Marks ( has published nine fantasy novels, including Dancing Jack, The Watcher's Mask and the Elemental Logic series (Fire Logic, Earth Logic, Water Logic, and Air Logic). She has been writing since her childhood in California, inspired by the works of C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander. Her books have been shortlisted for the James D. Tiptree/Otherwise Award, and have twice been awarded the Gaylactic Spectrum Award. Laurie J. Marks lives in Massachusetts with her wife, Deb Mensinger, and their Welsh corgi, Serendipity.

Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks

The martial Sainnites have occupied Shaftal for fifteen years. Every year the cost of resistance rises. Emil, an officer and scholar; Zanja, a diplomat and last survivor of her people; and Karis, a metalsmith, half-blood giant, and an addict, can only watch as their country falls into lawlessness and famine. Together, perhaps they can change the course of history.



  • "Fire Logic is a delightful, feminist fantasy epic featuring a ragtag bunch of misfits, swashbuckling, romance, and some weird elemental magic."

    – Bustle
  • "I'm re-reading after some years away, and loving the book even more than I did the first time! Marks creates a realistic society in which women are the dominant sex. The home country has been conquered by an army with no home to return to, and its leaders have been fighting a long, guerilla war against them. What they need is the leader who is joined by her magic with the earth, but the one who inherited the office from the former leader is a drug addict and former prostitute who doesn't believe in her worth or her job. The second-in-command of the army is beginning to see that her people have to re-think what they are doing if they are to survive, as do some of the rebel leaders. The characters are complex, facing complex problems. I . . . love them and the world-building."

    – Tamora Pierce, author of Tempests and Slaughter
  • "Zanja is one of my favorite protagonists in fantasy fiction — smart, courageous, and passionate despite the heavy weight of being the only surviving member of her people. These books look at oppression, queer identity, and morality during a protracted civil war — definitely worth picking up."

    – Gretchen Treu, A Room of One's Own



Chapter 1

In the border regions of northern Shaftal, the peaks of the mountains loom over hardscrabble farmholds. The farmers there build with stone and grow in stone, and they might even be made of stone themselves, they are so sturdy in the face of the long, bitter winter that comes howling down at them from the mountains.

The stone town of Kisha would have been as insignificant as all the northern towns, if not for the fact that Makapee, the first G'deon, had lived and died there. His successor, Lilter, had discovered the manuscript of the book in which were laid out the principles that were to shape Shaftal. During the next two hundred years, the library built to house the Makapee manuscript had transformed the humble town into an important place, a town of scholars and librarians who gathered there to study and care for the largest collection of books in the country. The library had in turn spawned a university, and the scholars, forced to live in the bitter northern climate, tried to make their months of shivering indoors by a smoky peat fire into an intellectual virtue.

Emil Paladin considered frostbite a small price to pay for the privilege of being a student in the university at Kisha. He was older than some of the masters, and his long-time teacher, Parel Truthken, had warned him that he might be more learned, as well. For ten years, since his first piercing, Emil had accompanied Parel on the rounds of his territory, capturing fleeing wrongdoers and occasionally executing them when it was necessary. It was Parel who had finally arranged Emil's admission and who would be paying his fees. So now Emil had arrived for the spring term, with a letter of introduction that was about to bring him into the presence of the Makapee manuscript itself.

Despite expensive carpets, rooms crammed with books, and fires that burned year round to prevent the damp, the library was a chilly and echoing place where men and women in scholar's robes tiptoed about. Being admitted to the Makapee manuscript, which set forth the principles that now unified Shaftal, was like being admitted into a temple. As he put on the silken gloves that he was required to wear, it occurred to Emil that Makapee himself would have found this ritual tremendously peculiar. The first G'deon had been an obscure potato farmer, who sat by a peat fire all winter long, writing of mysteries in a crabbed, nearly unreadable handwriting. The paper, Emil had been told, still smelled of peat. He doubted that the frowning librarian would let his nose come close enough to the paper for him to sniff it, but still, Emil felt almost giddy with anticipation.

A door opened, and the sound of an urgently ringing bell intruded on the silence. The librarian turned her head, frowning. "What!" she breathed at the man who hurried towards her.

The man whispered in her ear. Paling, she turned aside and hurried away. Emil was left with the gloves on his hands and the door to the Makapee vault still bolted shut. He felt a tearing, a sense of loss so profound he could not believe it had anything at all to do with the manuscript. Something momentous had happened. Dazed, he went through the halls, following the sound of the bell out into the square that fronted on the library.

As the bell continued to ring, the square became crowded with scholars carrying pens with the ink still wet on the nibs, librarians carrying books, townsfolk wearing work aprons, with babies in their arms and tools in their hands, and farmers from the countryside in heavy, muddy boots, with satchels on their shoulders. The farmers must have spotted the messenger on the road, and followed him into town to hear the news. The messenger's dirty, ragged banner hung limp from the bell tower, and Emil could scarcely make out the single glyph imprinted on it. It was Death-and-Life, he realized finally, which was commonly depicted on glyph cards as a pyre into which a man stepped and became a skeleton, or, alternately, from which a skeleton stepped and became a man. It was the G'deon's glyph, carried through Shaftal only once in each G'deon's lifetime: when the previous G'deon died and the new one was vested with the power of Shaftal. It called the people to simultaneously mourn and rejoice. Soon, the messenger would announce the death of Harald G'deon, who had given the land protection and health for thirty-five years, and would name his successor.

Emil did not envy the young elemental selected to inherit that burden of power and decision. The government of Shaftal had been in discord for some years, and the coastal regions were occupied by foreigners who lacked the Paladin compunctions over the use of violence. This was a time that demanded wisdom, and the new G'deon would not have much leisure to learn it.

A townswoman with a child clinging to her leg turned to Emil and said anxiously, "Well, it's a pity about Harald. But what I most want to hear is the name of his successor. It would relieve my heart to know that the rumors we've heard are wrong."

"Rumors?" said Emil. "I'm sorry, I was isolated all winter, and have only just come into town."

"Well, they say that even though Harald has known since autumn that he was dying, he refused to name a successor. Surely he did it at the end, though. He'd change his mind when he felt the breath of death at his heels. And now all this Sainnite nonsense will come to an end, at last, for a young G'deon won't fear to act against them."

The bell stopped ringing. The messenger, whose road-grimy clothing had once been white, stood up on the bell platform to speak, but he could utter only a cracked whisper that those closest to him could scarcely hear. The people pushed a big man forward to stand beside him and listen to his broken voice, then shout his words in a voice that carried across half the town.

"Harald G'deon is dead!"

The gathered people nodded somberly.

"He vested no successor!" the big man boomed.

Some listeners groaned, and others cried out in dismay, but Emil stood silent in horror. It was unimaginable that a G'deon would allow the accumulated power of ten generations of earth witches to die with him.