2019’s Air Logic is the fourth volume in Laurie Marks’ Elemental Logic secondary universe fantasy series.
After years of brutal occupation of Shaftal by the invading Sainnites, Karis — the new G’Deon — has brought Shaftalese and Sainnites to the brink of reconciliation. Alas for long-suffering Shaftal, not every Shaftalese accepts that Karis is the new G’Deon. They see her as the False G’Deon, a poseur fit only for death for misleading the nation.
Thus, the night of the assassins.
Saugus turned the Death-and-Life Company anti-Sainite guerillas into his own private cult. The first step was to orchestrate Death-and-Life’s commander’s death in an ambush, along with forty supporters for whom Saugus had no use. The second was to brainwash the surviving Death-and-Life warriors into fanatics willing to die for him. Karis and the peace she brings would be inconvenient. Therefore, she must die.
Most of the assassins Saugus sent to kill Karis are too dead to interrogate. There is a survivor. Chaen’s role was logistical support. Chaen believes she has escape the G’Deon’s notice. She is incorrect. If Chaen could be convinced to change sides, she could provide Saugus’ location. For Chaen, however, this means betraying not just Saugus but her own son, Maxew, Saugus’ acolyte.
Maxew is cold, analytical, and pragmatic. His mother is a clear threat to Death-and-Life, and more importantly, a threat to Maxew. Therefore, Maxew will take whatever steps are needed to contain the threat.
As for Saugus… He is not at all averse to Karis’ efforts to find him. In fact, he takes steps to ensure she will persist in her quest. After all, one cannot spring a trap if the prey will not step into it.
Without getting into the minutia of Elemental Logic, which school one belongs to shapes how one thinks1. For various reasons, people with Air Logic — of whom Maxew is a fair representation — are particularly difficult to get along with, combining as they do lack of empathy with an intellectual grasp of human behavior and intrusive mental powers. I’ve seen reviews compare them to people with autism. I think is off the mark, if only because the people on the spectrum I’ve known are not coolly homicidal or given to reshaping people’s minds for personal convenience2.
Someone like Maxew might conclude the most pragmatic way to deal with Air Logic is to eliminate it. Neither the author nor Karis incline that way. Instead, this volume continues the series’ exploration of how to reconcile irreconcilables: how to co-exist with invaders that doesn’t involve exterminating them, how to deal with social misfits without simply bashing them on the head with a rock. Maxew being a particularly abrasive individual facilitates this exploration3.
I am reminded of Graydon Saunder’s Commonweal series. Marks’ prose is considerably less opaque than Sanders and as a consequence, her characters far more engaging.
The Elemental Logic books are densely plotted and feature intricate world-building, as well as exploring an ethical framework considerably more complex than speculative fiction’s usual “Have you tried shoving the naïve girl out the airlock?” Reading this volume without having first read Fire Logic (2002), Earth Logic (2004), and Water Logic(2007)is not recommended. Consider rereading all three before beginning Air Logic.
Air Logic is available here.
1: Since elemental leanings are inborn, this raises some interesting questions about free will.
2: Each school of Elemental Logic can be abused. Air Logic may let you rewrite minds but there’s another school that can rewrite history.
3: Maxew’s companion Tashar is a more conventional flavour
sortof well-meaning antagonist. Poor Tashar is subjected to a humiliation conga. I wonder if this was at least in part because a character like Tashar is simply less interesting to write about than prickly Maxew.