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The Book of Ile-Rien, by Martha Wells

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is a re-issue in omnibus form of two books I have read separately, years ago. They are united by a common setting–sort of. The country of Ile-Rien is separated by several hundred years in the two books, and it is allowed to evolve between them, to have history and technology and all sorts of things, so that The Element of Fire is a court fantasy and The Death of the Necromancer is very gaslamp. One character is the ancestor of another, and his actions matter but only as a sort of subplot; the magic has similar roots in the same way that we have lots of pieces of technology from hundreds of years ago–kettles, needles and thread, all sorts of things–but also new ones.

So having it reissued in omnibus has a few advantages: one, there’s a reissue at all; two, it’s all in one place; three, the book will stay open nicely if you set it on the table to read while you’re eating. I did this experiment for you, friends, because I value science. However, if you want to get it and read one and then stop for a bit before you read the other, it’s really not all one story, you won’t have to do all 700+ pages at once.

The Element of Fire is the court fantasy. It’s full of fey/Fayre/fairies, the Unseelie court having a representative in the half-fey princess Kade Carrion and her generally quite relatable machinations in the court of her brother king Roland. The captain of the Queen’s Guard, the Dowager Queen and the new queen, all have roles to play in this, and there is court intrigue to the gills. I think Martha may have gotten a friend to sit on it so she could zip it with all the court intrigue she stuffed in there. I love court intrigue. I forgot how much I liked this one.

The Death of the Necromancer is more thieves and miscreants chasing around the city’s underworld trying to figure out in time who is causing the chaos for whom and whether it’s themselves (sometimes yes), and who they can trust enough to add to the team and who is just not going to be worth it. There are horrible, horrible things done to corpses, there are people who are willing to destroy each other for revenge, there is a really good grandmother. It goes on as the beginning of The Element of Fire starts but does not go on.

I found these held up really well and were so satisfying all these years later, and I’m delighted people will have another go at them.

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