Earth Logic (The Elemental Logic Saga book 2) by Laurie J. Marks (book review).

‘Earth Logic’ is the second novel in ‘The Elemental Logic Saga’. It tells the story of the continuing struggle of the people of Shaftal against the invading army of the neighbouring Sainites. The war has descended into one of attrition. Thirty years in, the Sainites have little memory of home or their original mission. Still they endure and battle on.


Karis is the G’deon, the rightful ruler of Shaftal. She lives in obscurity with a handful of friends and her lover. This mismatched group tries to survive in a world where using magic of any kind is a death sentence.

Elsewhere, a guerrilla army begins to fight the Sainite encampments, using the lost G’deon as a rallying cry. Will this be the time for Karis to reveal herself and lead her troubled country?

‘Earth Logic’ was a hard book to read. Despite having some very interesting ideas and occasionally lucid storytelling there are some large and one huge problems.

Lets deal with the large problems first.

There exists in nature a condition called sexual dimorphism. In short, this is where male and female creatures have very different characteristics. In the first book, ‘Fire Logic’, this is very much the case. The female characters are beautiful noble, self-sacrificing people who fight the good fight. The male characters at best are fundamentally flawed but, at worst, are pathetic and ugly creatures. There is a species of angler fish where the male exists as a tiny parasitic creature anchored to the female near the female’s rectal opening. This is similar in scope to the dimorphism in the story. I prefer to think in reality there is the same range of good and bad in people regardless of gender. If Earth races were so depicted in this story, this would be an unpublishable book. After a while, such gender politics become difficult to read.

The next issue is the writing style. The story has a tendency to jar and judder along. Imagine a handful of stones thrown into a pond the ripples produced overlay and confuse each other. Periodically, the ripples move into phase and nicely peak. The progression of the story lacks cohesion but occasionally comes together.

The descriptions of the mythology depicted are very nicely done. There are deliberate touches of Native American and African legends of creator animal spirits and gods. The subtle forms magic takes in Shaftal are pretty well done, too. There are less magical explosion and more gentle persuasion which feel more realistic than duelling Mages would.

Finally, the huge problem. There is no description of events in the first book. Now I know it is no failing of the author if the reader hasn’t read the previous books in a series. It must be accepted that for whatever reason it happens that books are read out of sequence. Most episodic works have a few paragraphs or even lines describing previous events. From the writer and publisher’s viewpoint, it could even be a means to get the reader to buy the previous work, surely a good thing?

No such thing exists here. The reader is left to try and figure things out themselves. I was unsure if this was a deliberate ploy by the author. If you are dumb enough to read a series of books part-way in that is your problem. If this was a conscious ploy then it made many events in this book incomprehensible. For example, one of the characters is a giant, that is to say a distinct species. Many references are made to her being unusually tall and her former tribe living in a different culture but I had to find out that she was from a distinct species while researching the story trying to make sense of it. Another massive thing I discovered was the fact that the Sainites invaded Shaftal because there was a prophesy that the Sainites would be destroyed by a Shaftali magic user. I discovered this while banging my head on the keyboard in confusion. These are some pretty fundamental things to not have clarified. It isn’t until fairly late on that we are even told what a G’deon is. It is still unclear to me whether this omission is a deliberate decision or an oversight in this edition of the book.

There are positive aspects to the book. I loved the idea that in a world of magic and warfare a book could be the mightiest weapon. Strong female characters are always welcome and traditionally SF and fantasy has a better track record in producing such. Perhaps when half your characters are not even human, gender or sexual orientation becomes pretty irrelevant. Fantasy, probably more than any other genre of fiction, has swung toward female ascendancy. From the early male-dominated world of middle earth and the very dodgy 1950s and 1960s cover art (why would a female adventurer want to battle in a skimpy leather bikini?) to modern fantasy heroes such as Ash in Mary Gentle’s alternative histories. This is both right and good. This novel displays misandry in its depiction of men and as such is pretty difficult to read.

Overall, this book is a bit of a two-legged stool. Imagine seeing someone digging a hole, are they truffle hunting or hiding a body? This is less frustrating than trying to work out most of a story’s premise with half the facts. Without the summary of the first novel this book is unlikely to win any new fans.

Andy Bollan

February 2014

(pub: TOR/Forge. 400 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $35.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-765-30952-1)

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