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The Element of Fire (Ile-Rien #1)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  1,148 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
The kingdom of Ile-Rien is in peril, menaced by magical threats and court intrigue. As the weak King Roland, misled by treacherous companions, rules the country, only his ruthless mother, the Dowager Queen Ravenna, truly guards the safety of the realm. But now Urbain Grandier, the dark master of scientific sorcery, has arrived to plot against the throne and Kade, bastard s ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 15th 1994 by Tor Books (first published July 1993)
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Oct 03, 2014 Carol. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Wells, traditional fantasy
Shelves: fantasy, epic-fantasy

Three and a half stars.

If you are considering Martha Wells, I suggest starting with one of her books besides The Element of Fire. The Death of the Necromancer (review), for instance, or The Cloud Roads (review), or even City of Bones (review). I thoroughly enjoyed–and own–all of them, though all are very different approaches to the fantasy genre. Fire was her debut book, published in 1993, and lacks the finesse of her later works. It is a more traditional fantasy focused on a court setting, with
The other Sandy
I normally don't like fantasy novels that revolve around court intrigue because politics bores the crap out of me, but Martha Wells has a way of making political maneuverings seem just as exciting as the battle scenes, of which there are many in this book.

It gets off to something of a slow start with the author dropping the reader into a large body of characters, only to switch scenes and drop the reader into another large body of characters. Fortunately Wells is good at drawing connections betw
Oct 08, 2014 Alissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
I liked this tale. It is very fantasy, maybe a bit on the classic side but it holds up well, and I particularly appreciated the clear narrative approach, its refreshing straightforwardness –by no means to be confused with simplicity. There are interesting characters, action, politics, irony and mysteries. And the Fay!
3.5 stars rounded down because the romance is dropped like an afterthought and it fell flat, anyway considering this is a debut book I’m impressed; surely this won’t be my last Mart
Jul 30, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The best fantasy I’ve read in at least a year. If you enjoy GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire series, you should pick this book up as well. The old king is dead. In his place rules his only living son, the weak and ineffectual King Roland, who is utterly at the command of his treacherous childhood friend. It falls to the dowager queen Ravenna and her faithful, but aging, Captain of the Queen’s Guard to keep the country together. Into this already explosive situation comes Roland’s bastard sister Kaid, ...more
Yay for free ebooks on Stanza/iPhone! This had been recommended to me in passing, but I didn't follow-up on it until I found myself in this recent mood for fantasy of manners. And this was exactly what I hoped it would be: filled with adventure and court intrigue, with very complex character development, flashes of wit and humor, and a dash of romance. I especially appreciated the strong women characters (Kade!), but even the less likable characters were very interesting and felt real. And while ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Swashbuckling, intrigue, sorcery, snide banter, evil attack fairies...

Free at
Gah, I'm just so conflicted on how to rate this book!

I've rated books 3 stars that I liked much less than this, and I've rated books 4 stars I loved way more.

The characters, their chemistry, the historical detail, the court intrigue and the fencing all deserve 5 stars! The book made me laugh, the book made me cry, the book made me sigh with heart-break.

But the fantasy aspects of the world building, parts of the narrative structure and the books's pacing in parts of the story didn't make me a
Apr 20, 2012 Estara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of kingdom-level fantasy with strong females
Recommended to Estara by: auto-buy author
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lindsay Stares
Oct 19, 2012 Lindsay Stares rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-on-kindle
Premise: Set in the same world as The Wizard Hunters and its sequels, but takes place centuries prior. In the kingdom of Ile-Rien, the Captain of the Queen’s Guard goes to rescue an academic sorcerer from a dangerous foreign wizard. It seems simple enough, but with power-hungry sycophants circling the young king, who himself seems disinclined to care about the kingdom, everything is part of someone’s plot and everyone will be drawn into the battle for the future of the country.

I really enjoyed t
Jun 21, 2015 Li rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very slow start for me - it felt more-tell-than-show at times, and I found it hard to get into the flow of the story. But I persevered and was rewarded with a lovely fantasy of manners, complete with sigh-inducing romance. I love her Ile-Rien world.
First of all, I shouldn't have read this and not listened to the audiobook. My memory for names is bad at the best of times but combine it with unusual names (here some fantasy names with a pinch of French thrown in) and some really gripping scenes got ruined for me because I tried to remember who the person was that just did the thing that was apparently a big deal.

Otherwise, this book falls into the 'I can see other people enjoying this a lot more than I did' category. Not that I didn't enjoy
3.5 or 4 stars. I liked this book, but not as much as her award-winning The Death of the Necromancer.
I listened to the audio, superbly narrated by Derek Perkins. He's a pro.

As for the story, it's action-packed, coherent, and mildly complex. Good dialogue. Gruesome. Some sections are vividly gripping, some parts went on too long, and some scenes are just plain sad. I think King Roland -- so lacking in self-esteem -- made the greatest impression on me. His portrayal felt realistic.

However, the we
Swashbuckling good fun. The style is very The Three Musketeers, with lots of sword fights, banter and bravery. But the added touch is the fae, or fayre as they're called here. At first I was a bit disappointed that the fae of this other world were so much like those written about on our world, with Seelie and Unseelie courts, the Seelie monarchs named Tatiana and Oberon, etc. But then I decided that if they do exist, who's to say that they don't exist in more than one world at once? Those fairy ...more
Mar 04, 2009 Lorena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I have really enjoyed discovering/rediscovering Martha Wells this past year! I read Death of the Necromancer years ago, on my honeymoon, and then the book was put in storage during a move and I didn't have a chance to revisit it until a few months ago. This book is Wells' first book, and the first one set in Ile-Rien, although it, like Death of the Necromancer, works as a standalone. The writing gives a wonderful sense of place, the characters are all witty and wounded in the right proportions, ...more
This is Wells first published novel. Very well written with an engaging Swordsman and half Fae bastard daughter of the dead king teaming up to save the kingdom from the evil sorcerer. Cliche plot but so well constructed you don't mind at all.

It's a free eBook also! Since it's out of print the author has released it through an excellent resouce for (legal) classic works and author's specials.
Jan 14, 2017 Adobe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enemies internal, external, and magical threaten the kingdom of Ile-Rein, and saving the throne falls to Thomas Boniface, captain of the Queen's Guard, and Kade Carrion, half-mortal sister of the king. The Element of Fire is satisfyingly full of swashbuckling and mannerpunk, and while the plotting is rather slack, the book's vivid characters and baroque details compensate for the mercurial motivations and abrupt coincidences used to join one scene to another.
Matt Holmes
Nov 02, 2016 Matt Holmes rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing interesting happened in the first 200 pages. I'd say that's long enough to call it quits.
Jan 22, 2017 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read in 2016.
okay, i'm officially a Martha Wells fan. or more like she has become one of my auto-buy authors. i really loved this book. this story has a strong hook for me; the powerful, engimatic, assured heroine is always a huge plus for me. i loved the push-pull dynamic kade had with thomas. this was so fun to read; i just devoured it.
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I’d probably rate this somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars. In the beginning, this book was a ball of confusion for me. I said it started slow, but that’s not correct. How can a beginning that includes the Queen’s Guard literally being fought by a warded house be a slow start? Definitely not a slow start, but the particular moment left me feeling disoriented for a while. Things didn’t start becoming clearer until around page 50 or so. That’s when the book started to ans
Ана Хелс
Oct 17, 2015 Ана Хелс rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Повечето от вас може би свързват името на Марта Уелс с една – единствена книжка, излязла под крилото на Бард преди години като част от поредица, и то не дори началната книга, която необяснимо потъна в тъжно забвение. Може би все пак има някакви основания за това издателство решение, тъй като Ил – Риен е една алтернативна, магическа, почти стиймпънк вселена, твърде различна както от класическото фентъзи с меч и магия, така и от по-модерните ърбънчета и тийн неща, за които публика винаги има. Въоб ...more
Feb 27, 2011 Brandy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Según mi personalísimo reto tenía que leerme este título que lo tengo desde hace pfffffffffff ni sé. Como reto que era ni me molesté en leerme la sinopsis confiando en que me sorprendería, aunque al hablar del libro en un foro no pude resistirlo.
"Duelos a estoque, conspiraciones cortesanas y ataques de criaturas mágicas.". WaoOo, parece que tiene de todo, y no le faltaba razón. El libro tiene todo eso, pero cuando la autora es incapaz de otorgar sentimientos a los personajes y no tiene arte para
Elizabeth Spencer
More like three and a half.

I picked The Element of Fire up because I am wildly in love with Martha Wells's Raksura series. But this is Wells's 23-year-old debut novel from 1993! And she's changed a lot.

The Element of Fire starts awkwardly. There are too many characters, too many factions, and too many details. It's a medieval political intrigue, and the first hundred or so pages dutifully introduce every single faction and all of their various forms of intrigue. It took me ages just to remember
The Element of Fire is Martha Wells debut fantasy novel, which is she put up for free online after it became hard to find in the US. While I don’t think it’s the best Martha Wells novel I’ve read, it’s still an enjoyable read. The Element of Fire focuses on court politics in Il-Rien, a setting similar to 16th century European courts. Urbain Grandier, a powerful master of sorcery, is plotting against the throne of King Roland, who mainly leaves ruling to his mother, the Dowager Queen Ravenna. Mea ...more
Just A. Bean
Apr 23, 2014 Just A. Bean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Since indicating I reread it ate my last review, here we go again.

Going back to Wells' first novel after just reading her Raksura books was interesting. She revised this one about eight years ago, which probably smoothed some of the contrast, but her style has changed. This series has much less elaborate and involved world building, being a secondary world, but still more or less 17th-century Paris with magic (in later books it's 19th then 20th century Paris/London, which leads to a neat evoluti
Sep 08, 2015 Salma rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
more like 2.5 stars.... the thing is, for the first thirty or so pages i was really interested because i thought i knew where the book was going, and that was a long, slow, complicated unfolding of the relationships between kade, roland and ravenna. i thought it would be very political, and then at the end there would be a culminating battle or something. that's what i WANTED to happen.

instead, we're plunged into the defining action very early on, and the rest of the book is spent dealing with t
Nov 10, 2015 Chernz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking to get started on Martha Wells' books, there are better places to start than Element of Fire. Where I liked Death of a Necromancer and really enjoyed City of Bones (this one was probably one of the best book I've read this year!) Element of Fire just didn't cut it for me. This isn't a particularly good debut and seems clunky and awkward after reading some of her later works. The plot's all about finding a rogue sorcerer gone bad and it never gets more complex than that. The cha ...more
A bit slow to get started, I mean, it starts up right away, but I didn't get interested until a bit farther in. It took a while before I started to get attached to any of the characters. That might be because they were all jerks. The pacing of the book was a bit uneven, with absolutely nothing going on, and then smack dab in the middle of a war zone with almost no warning. There were a few good twists here and there, but for the most part it wasn't too hard to guess at what was really happening. ...more
Feb 15, 2010 Aneel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Won a copy on eBay. Now that I see the cover, I'm sure I've never read this one before, which means I had read Death of the Necromancer before.

The book starts slowly. Too many unimportant characters are named, with too little to distinguish them. However, once the important characters take over, the story does get going nicely. It turns out to be a fun adventure, with sympathetic (though not "nice") characters.

I'm psyched to read what Wells does with this world, now that she's a more experienced
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Martha Wells has written many fantasy novels, including the Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads), the Ile-Rien series (including the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer) as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins, and non-fiction. Her most recent fantasy novels are The Edge of Worlds in 2016 and The Harbors of the Sun forthcoming in July 2017, the ...more
More about Martha Wells...

Other Books in the Series

Ile-Rien (5 books)
  • The Death of the Necromancer (Ile-Rien, #2)
  • The Wizard Hunters (The Fall of Ile-Rien, #1)
  • The Ships of Air (The Fall of Ile-Rien, #2)
  • The Gate of Gods (The Fall of Ile-Rien, #3)

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