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The Element of Fire (Ile-Rien #1)

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  1,093 Ratings  ·  95 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
Paperback, 314 pages
Published November 13th 2006 by Martha Wells (first published July 1993)
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(showing 1-30)
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Oct 23, 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
May 10, 2016 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
The other Sandy
Apr 25, 2012 The other Sandy rated it it was amazing
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
More reviews @ Bibliosanctum

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
Jul 30, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it
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
May 20, 2009 Joy rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 27, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it
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 22, 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
Feb 04, 2013 Lindsay Stares rated it really liked it
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
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.
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
May 23, 2009 Lorena rated it really liked it
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
Ана Хелс
Oct 17, 2015 Ана Хелс rated it it was amazing
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
Just A. Bean
Apr 28, 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
Nov 17, 2015 Chernz rated it liked it
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
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.
Joe Slavinsky
Jan 16, 2016 Joe Slavinsky rated it really liked it
This is a reprint of Ms Wells very first novel, published in 1993. After reading her "Fall of Ile-Rein" series, I looked for this book, and her 2nd novel, "The Death of the Necromancer", both of which took place in Ile-Rein. I hadn't been able to find either, so was very happy when I saw this come out. This book is terrific, a fantasy with all the sword & sorcery you could want, including the fay. It's also a great character story. No cardboard cut-outs here. It's also a brisk page-turner. I ...more
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
Dec 26, 2015 Salma rated it it was ok
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
Jun 11, 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
Aug 19, 2014 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great fun with magic and politics and an interesting look into the history of Ile Rien. I read this before the Fall series and am glad I did, because it made me smile to see the painting on the Ravenna.

It develops at a good pace, and while I did guess several plot twists in advance, I still had fun watching the pieces come together.

I hope we get to see Kade and Thomas Boniface in the future.
Mar 12, 2015 Hoolie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: genre
Ignore the silly title. Somehow I found this book and I'm happy for it. Lots of action, sure; magic, duh; but lucky us, also tons of wit and great dialogue. It's got court politics, and characters with old souls full of regret. They still manage to live on, fight, hooray. I like this author's style.

Boliver stage-whispered, "We're being watched!"
Kade ignored him.

Mar 25, 2013 Ubiquitousbastard rated it really liked it
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
Mar 18, 2014 E.L. rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-in-2014
This started out slowly, but oh my, once it got going I could not put it down. I was riveted right through the end, upon which I put it down with a satisfied sigh and immediately put in a request through the local library for the sequel.
Emily (BellaGrace)
3.5 - Not a terrible book but I didn't love it. I found the ending tedious because it dragged on so long....and I really hate when characters fall madly in love with each other after knowing each other for only a few days.
May 11, 2015 Suzanne rated it liked it
I have enjoyed other Martha Wells' books, particularly the Raksura series. This was her first novel and it shows. I could see hints of her current strengths (world building and character development) but the book as a whole was not strong. I look forward to reading the next book in this Ile-Rien series (Death of the Necromancer) as I have heard that it is vastly better than this first book.
Eric Jackson
Jan 15, 2016 Eric Jackson rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I love Martha Wells' writing. This a straight on court intrigue fantasy filled with Faerie Courts, Evil Dukes, Wizards, Half-Fae princesses and a bloody minded protagonist in the form of the Queen's Captain of the Guard.
Lisa C.
Feb 07, 2015 Lisa C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-read
The first of Wells' books I ever read, and one that led to a complete fascination with her books. A recent re-read made me realize that it's a little all-over-the-place, but still really, really good.
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Martha Wells is the author of over a dozen SF/F novels, including Wheel of the Infinite, City of Bones, The Element of Fire, and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer. She has a fantasy trilogy: The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods, currently out in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

Her most recent fantasy novels are The Books of the Raksura series: The Cloud Roads
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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