Elemental Logic

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Elemental Logic is a tetralogy written by American fantasy author Laurie J. Marks. Arguably an example of Low Fantasy, the series is set in the land of Shaftal, whose citizens are left without a spiritual leader after Harald G'deon, earth witch of the ruling House of Lilterwess, dies, apparently without vesting a successor with his power. Without a G'deon, and with the House of Lilterwess toppled in a single night, Shaftal is left at the mercy of the invading Sainnites, descending into poverty and a state of constant guerrilla warfare.

The central players include Zanja na'Tarwein, a tribal warrior woman whose clan was destroyed by the Sainnites; Karis, a half-giant metalsmith who possesses powerful healing abilities but has long been addicted to a drug that slowly but surely kills its users; and Emil Paladin, a scholar who finds himself leader of a company of Shaftali rebels.

A fine character-driven fantasy series that definitely Needs More Love, Elemental Logic is particularly notable for its prominent LGBT themes (the first two novels both won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award) and its presentation of a fantasy setting in which men and women are equally likely to be farmers or soldiers, healers or craftsmen.

Books in the series include:

  1. Fire Logic (2002)
  2. Earth Logic (2004)
  3. Water Logic (2007)
  4. Air Logic (forthcoming)

Tropes used in Elemental Logic include:

  • Action Girl: Zanja na'Tarwein, katrim of the Ashawala'i. Interestingly enough, Karis, despite her great size and muscular build, is a healer, and rarely fights -- but she can certainly hold her own when she does. The series is notable, however, for avoiding the Double Standard inherent in both this trope and Non-Action Guy, as pretty much any occupation one can think of is equal-opportunity and one never sees the "She's a soldier and also a woman OMG!" attitude found in other series.
    • Also the female paladins, Truthkens (most prominently Norina), and Sainnite soldiers.
  • Action Mom: Norina in the later books; Zanja and Karis might also count, since by Shaftali custom all the adults in a household are considered the children's parents.
  • Adorkable: Medric the seer.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Karis, described as possessing "musculature and form that might make a sculptor weep."
  • Badass Bookworm: Emil Paladin, scholar and respected commander.
  • Bi the Way: Cadmar (sleeps with Gilly but frequents a brothel), Alrin (married to a woman but sleeps with men as a prostitute), possibly Gilly (if he has any interest in women).
  • Big Book of War: Mabin's Warfare.
  • Big Fancy House: The house used as Karis's seat of government starting from the end of Earth Logic. It's the only building in the town large enough for the purpose; unfortunately, it is also so spectacularly ugly that Karis immediately names it "Travesty". The name sticks.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: The House of Lilterwess was this before its destruction.
  • The Black Death: A subplot in Earth Logic concerns the main characters' attempts to stop an epidemic of this disease.
  • The Blacksmith: Karis.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Norina and J'han's daughter Leeba. Zanja calls her "Little Hurricane" with good reason.
  • Cast Full of Gay
  • The Chosen One: Karis, who was chosen as Harald G'deon's successor and then quickly shipped off to a remote mining village when her addiction to smoke was discovered.
  • Cool Old Guy: Emil isn't quite elderly, but is at least described as gray-haired. Zanja also refers to him as "our elder" when describing the family to Karis's mother's people.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Other characters have their moments, but Clement and Gilly are the most consistent about it.
  • Death by Childbirth: Alrin.
  • Elemental Powers: A subtle interpretation thereof, typically used more in reference to personality traits than actual powers. Earth bloods are healers, air bloods are Truthken, water bloods control the weather and fire bloods are seers and oracles.
  • Empathic Weapon: Played with. The knife Karis crafts for Zanja isn't alive, but Karis is able to sense when Zanja kills someone with it, and who she's killed. This is important later in Fire Logic when Zanja decides to commit suicide rather than be captured, and Karis sends assistance the moment the blade touches Zanja's throat.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The sections of Fire Logic all begin with one quote each from Mackapee's Principles for Community, Mabin's Warfare, and Medric's History of My Father's People. Two of the three authors are characters in the series proper; the other, Mackapee, was the first G'deon and basically responsible for Shaftal's culture prior to the arrival of the Sainnites.
  • Fantastic Drug: Smoke.
  • Fantastic Racism: Between the Shaftali and Sainnites. Medric fears what people will think of him for being half-Sainnite. Karis fears the same persecution. In the second book, Garland has been drifting for years because he's afraid to tell people he's Sainnite, and can't settle down anywhere while keeping the secret.
    • The third book reveals that this used to be a problem between the Shaftali and the border tribes.
  • Fantasy Contraception: The Shaftali have this; the Sainnites don't.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Both the Shaftali and Sainnite cultures are egalitarian in regards to gender, as are the border tribes that we see, and there's no shortage of strong and important female characters.
  • Five-Man Band: Played with in many ways and often subverted, but they generally fall into the following roles:
  • Forging Scene: A memorable one occurs shortly before the conclusion of Fire Logic, when Karis forges the spike that she then drives into Mabin's heart, using her power to keep her alive anyway. Her ability to do this proves to everyone present that she is, in fact, the G'deon.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Annis, particularly when it comes to inventing rockets and explosives. She even seems to have invented napalm.
  • Genki Girl: Annis again.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The conflict between the Shaftali and the Sainnites isn't quite as black-and-white as everyone assumes.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Karis, half-giant.
    • This turns out not to be literal. Karis tracks down her mother's family in Earth Logic, and they're human- just really, really tall. Everyone keeps calling them giants, though.
  • Happily Married: As of the second book, Zanja and Karis, Norina and J'han, Emil and Medric. Also Harald G'Deon and Dinal, although they die before the series begins.
  • Healing Hands: Karis, who is able to bring Zanja back from near-death and restore her body after she was imprisoned for months, her toes cut off one by one and her back broken.
  • Hopeless War: By the second book, the Shaftali and Sainnites are both entirely aware that the war between them is a hopeless one for both sides, and the main characters' chief concern is how to defeat the Sainnites without sacrificing the soul of Shaftal in the process. At the end of Earth Logic, Karis, after much deliberation, finally puts her foot down and ends the conflict by declaring the Sainnites to be Shaftali, thus eliminating one side altogether without the need for further bloodshed.
  • Hot-Blooded: Zanja. Fire bloods in general have a reputation for it.
  • Jerkass: Willis.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Norina.
  • Keet: Medric.
  • Kill the Cutie: Annis.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Clement.
  • La Résistance: The Paladins have become this by the start of the series, although they existed before the Sainnites' arrival and used to have a different role.
  • Last of Her Kind: Zanja is the last of the Ashawala'i.
  • Living Lie Detector: Norina, and Truthken in general.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In Book Two, Karis meets the Sainnite general Cadmar, and the resemblance between them is such that everyone there except Cadmar figures it out on the spot. It doesn't affect either of their actions, though.
  • Mad Oracle: Zanja could be interpreted as a toned-down example on all counts: the slaughter of her people and her time imprisoned by the Sainnites have clearly left her unbalanced and prone to hallucinations, but she isn't babbling or incoherent, and her visions and card-readings are intuitive more than outright magical. Other characters tend to view most fire bloods as mad oracles by nature.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Grandmother Ocean from Water Logic. She’s not a fighter physically, but even so, you really don’t want her mad at you.
  • Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Averted; the two elderly gentlemen Karis has been living with in Meartown are clearly a couple.
  • Not So Different: The Sainnites and Paladins, after over a decade of warfare.
  • Odd Friendship: Clement and Gilly.
  • Oh My Gods: Many characters swear by the country of Shaftal. In a more exact use of this trope, there's the Ashawala'i "By the nine gods!" and Medric's "Gods of my father!"
  • Overly Long Name: The Juras tribesmen often have names well over eight syllables long. Justified in that the syllables of a Juras name are taken from surviving relatives and True Companions. It's considered a sad thing to have one's name grow shorter with age.
  • Posthumous Character: Harald G'Deon and Dinal.
  • Pregnant Badass: Norina. Later an Action Mom.
  • Proud Warrior Race Girl: Zanja.
  • Rape as Backstory: It's never stated outright, but Clement is quite certain Gilly was sexually abused by Cadmar when he was first taken in off the streets.
  • Rebel Leader: Mabin.
  • Reluctant Warrior: Emil would rather be a scholar than a leader of La Résistance.
  • Rescue Romance: A Zig-Zagging Trope, played every which way by Zanja and Karis.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Subverted.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Karis is extremely tall and muscular.
  • The Storyteller: Zanja becomes one in Earth Logic, and is only referred to as "the storyteller" for a time.
  • Invisible to Gaydar: Almost everyone. Zanja, Karis, Emil, Medric, Annis, Clement, Seth...
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Karis and her father, Cadmar. The first time they meet, most of the onlookers guess their relationship.
  • Superpower Lottery: The G'deon, in addition to his or her own power as an earth witch, also has the collective power of all the previous G'deons. The result is that the G'deon is immensely powerful, but has to be very careful about choosing when to act. Another example would be the water witches, who can control the weather and time.
  • Supreme Chef / Team Chef: Garland.
  • Time Skip: Several.
  • Time Travel: A power of water witches, and a major part of Book 3.
  • True Companions:
    • By the end of the first book, Zanja, Karis, Emil, Medric, Norina and J'han.
    • In the second book, Norina and J'han's young daughter refers to all six of them as her parents.
  • Tsundere: Norina.
  • UST: Zanja and Karis, and how. You can cut it with a knife from the moment they meet. Often borders on Belligerent Sexual Tension. They finally get together at the end of Fire Logic.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Mabin.
  • Xanatos Roulette: Except for Clement's subplot, basically everything that happens in Water Logic is part of a Xanatos Roulette by Grandmother Ocean to get the G'deon of two centuries ago to rearrange the land where her tribe lives.