Laurie Marks's rich and affecting new novel Earth Logic is the second book in her Elemental Logic series which began with Fire Logic (warmly reviewed here in May 2002). Thirty-five years ago, a refugee Sainnite army invaded the land of Shaftal. However, without reinforcements, which aren't coming, the occupying army won't be able to hold on much longer. Because they have maltreated the Shaftali, they now fear reprisals.
Karis, an ex-blacksmith and one-time drug addict, is the long-hidden Shaftali leader. She is a huge woman and has power within her to listen to the earth and to shape objects. She has gathered an odd family around her: Zanja, her lover; Leeba, her daughter; a Sainnite deserter army cook; the former Shaftali general; and a Sainnite Seer who is unable to drink tea or liquor or eat anything rich for fear of unbalancing his mind. This small group must fight the Sainnites, an outbreak of plague and even their own countrymen who want war.
One of the most affecting sections is when Karis' group finds a hidden library and an old printing press. They use the press to publish a book that reminds the Shaftali that they unlike the occupying Sainnites are a hospitable and generous people. This is one step on Karis' path to the nonviolent defeat of the Sainnites. As Emil, the former Shaftali general says, "War cannot make peace." The nonviolent choice is a strong and difficult one, and not everyone in Shaftal supports it especially those who have lost family and friends in the occupation. However, it is what Karis wants, and in earth logic "action and understanding are inseparable," so, although it seems impossible to overcome the warring factions, she is determined to make it happen.
Earth Logic is a thought-provoking and sometimes heartbreaking political novel which absorbingly examines the dynamics between two groups of people. Good bread, wine and friendships alone may not save the world, but they make the doing of it much more palatable. Gavin J. Grant is co-editor of The Year's Best Fantasy ∧ Horror, to be published this summer by St. Martin's.