Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Element of Fire (Ile-Rien, #1)” as Want to Read:
The Element of Fire (Ile-Rien, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book

The Element of Fire

(Ile-Rien #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,581 ratings  ·  145 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Element of Fire, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,581 ratings  ·  145 reviews

Sort order
Oct 03, 2014 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
Sep 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
DNF at 30%

I was lent this book by a friend, but I just couldn't get into it, no matter how many times I gave it another chance. I was confused about who was who throughout the book and everyone seemed to have the same name.

When I lost my page one day, I took is as a sign to stop reading, especially given I couldn't remember where I had been up to in the story because it was so boring!
The other Sandy
Feb 12, 2010 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
Oct 08, 2014 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
Pretty conventional fantasy based in a European-like city/country. Swords, rapiers, jherkins, smocks, ladies-in-waiting, sorcerers, fae, scheming and double-dealing abound. I did, however, care about Kade and Thomas and Ravenna. I could have spent lots of time with Ravenna.
The book was a pleasant enough diversion, and piqued my interest sufficiently for me to continue with the next Il-Rien book, as I understand it's better than this one.
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 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
Cat M
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reread. I think I first read this sometime in 2010.

This is a secondary-world fantasy set in the approximate equivalent of 17th Century France only with both sorcery and Fae creatures.

The heart of this story is the subtle balances and shifting alliances of court politics, in a country with a young, too-weak King and a ruthless, perhaps too-strong Dowager Queen. And it centres on the unlikely alliance that develops between Thomas Boniface, Captain of the Queen's Guard and Kade Carrion bastard, hal
May 19, 2009 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
Jan 05, 2009 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 20, 2012 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.
First of all, I should 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 it
Lindsay Stares
Oct 19, 2012 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
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
Sadie Slater
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a competent if slightly lacklustre fantasy in the swashbuckling, basically early modern Europe with added magic vein; I didn't dislike it, but I never really warmed to it either. There were some interesting characters, including a rather older hero than one normally finds, and some well-drawn and complex female characers, but it got rather infodumpy in places (a lot of "as X was only too well aware..." followed by a chunk of the history, geography or politics of the world of the novel), ...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.
Jun 21, 2015 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.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fan2
Being used to how incredible Martha Wells' more recent work is, this one (published some 25 years ago) was a bit of a disappointment. The plot was meandering and didn't hold my interest very well. I also didn't particularly connect with either of the main characters (the side characters were much more intriguing to me for the most part), and I just wasn't that invested in the outcome of their story.

As a fan of all four other Ile Rien books, it was nice to see a different period in the country's
Nicole Luiken
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook, sf-fantasy
Continuing my glom of Martha Wells' backlist. Political intrigue, swordplay, lots of magic and a lovely slow-burn romantic subplot, too. Happy sigh. Very impressed with the way the plot escalated.

Quibble: I still have no idea why it's titled The Element of Fire. Neither fire nor elementals figured into it very much. A head-scratcher.
Carolyn F.

I loved this author's sci-fi series so much that I wanted to try her other series. I'm not much into fantasy books but I did come in with high hopes. This is pretty much a normal fantasy book, so for people who love that genre, you'll love this book. Me, not so much. 3 out of 5 stars.
May 03, 2018 marked it as dnf
Unfortunately, like The Dreaming Tree, this one is utterly generic fantasy nonsense. None of the drive and creativity of the raksura books. dnf at 18%
It took me a while to get into the book, and while it was enjoyable once I got started, I doubt I will continue with the series.
Ана Хелс
Oct 17, 2015 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
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 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
Sep 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genre-fantasy
Light, funny, likable characters, clear good guys, clear bad guys, kind of obvious where it goes - typical pre-new_epic_fantasists stuff, but I enjoyed it a lot and I intend to read all 5 Ile-Rien books.

Recommended with the caveat above - do not expect anything original or deep, but if you enjoy Ms. Wells style and you are in the mood for a romp with swords and sorcery the book is for you.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, fantasy, humor
“I have no regrets, except perhaps my choice of allies.” “And your choice of enemies?”

This freshman work shows elements of Martha Wells’ future style. Not quite four stars, but Wells gets extra credit because this was her first novel. Wells has turned the Ile-Rien stories into a franchise, presumably the subsequent ones are more polished.

“We’re going to be roasted. And eaten.” “Quit sniveling.”

Foreshadows the snarky humor which makes Wells’ Murderbot science fiction so hilarious.

“I’m going with
Titus Fortner
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
I love Martha Wells, but this, her first published book, is just not great. I actually liked the beginning daring rescue, but right after that, so much stuff gets thrown at the reader that it makes it very difficult to keep everything straight. I get it, court intrigues are complicated, but oof: "wait, which one is that person again?" I didn't love the audiobook narration, so that might have played a part. I was constantly rewinding to see if I missed something or if it just didn't make sense, a ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Error when accessing ebook 2 25 Oct 08, 2012 10:19AM  
  • Stranger at the Wedding (Windrose Chronicles #4)
  • God Stalk (Kencyrath, #1)
  • Penric and the Shaman (Penric and Desdemona, #2)
  • The Well-Favored Man: The Tale of the Sorcerer's Nephew (Argylle #1)
  • The Soul Mirror (Collegia Magica, #2)
  • The Grand Ellipse
  • The Prophecy Machine (Investments, #1)
  • The Bird of the River (Lord Ermenwyr, #3)
  • A Red Heart of Memories (Red Heart of Memories, #1)
  • Memory of Morning
  • The Isle of Glass (The Hound and the Falcon, #1)
  • The Gate of Ivory (Ivory #1)
  • The Riven Shield (The Sun Sword, #5)
  • The Sleeping God (Dhulyn and Parno, #1)
  • Heart of Veridon (The Burn Cycle, #1)
  • At the Queen's Command (Crown Colonies, #1)
  • The Dubious Hills
  • Lord Kelvin's Machine (Narbondo, #3)
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 Death of the Necromancer) as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins (for Star Wars and Stargate: Atlantis), and non-fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel is The Harbors of the Sun in 2017, the final novel in The Books of the ...more

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)
“She was beginning to recognize it as the feeling of anger taken to such a level it was no longer possible to separate it from any other emotion or thought. In a way, it was a liberating sensation.” 2 likes
More quotes…