Review: The Book of Ile-Rien: The Element of Fire & The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells


Collecting Martha Wells’ Element of Fire and Death of the Necromancer for the first time in one place, in a new and revised edition!

From the author of Witch King and the Murderbot

Both novels included in this volume have been revised and updated. These are the author’s preferred texts.

The Element of Fire

The kingdom of Ile-Rien lies in peril, menaced by sorcerous threats and devious intrigue, when Kade, bastard sister of King Roland, appears unexpectedly at court. The illegitimate daughter of the old king and the Queen of Air and Darkness herself, Kade’s true desires are cloaked in mystery.

It falls to Thomas Boniface, Captain of the Queen’s Guard, to keep the kingdom from harm. But is one man’s steel enough to counter all the magic of fayre?

The Death of the Necromancer

Nicholas Valiarde is a passionate, embittered nobleman and the greatest thief in all of Ile-Rien. On the gaslight streets of the city, Nicholas assumes the guise of a master criminal, stealing jewels from wealthy nobles to finance his quest for a long-pursued vengeance.

But Nicholas’s murderous mission is being interrupted by a series of eerie, unexplainable, and fatal events. A dark magic opposes him, and traces of a necromantic power that hasn’t been used for centuries abound. Nicholas and his compatriots find themselves battling an ancient evil.

And if they lose? Death would be preferable to the fate that awaits them….

Review-The Element of Fire:

Ile-Rien is the only series written by Martha Wells that I haven’t ever dipped my toe into. Too many books, too little time, sigh! Therefore it goes without saying that I was extremely thrilled when I received an arc of the revised editions of the two books from the series now known as The Book of Ile-Rien, published by Tor Books. While there are some tiny indications scattered throughout that The Element of Fire may be Martha Well’s debut novel (given I have read almost everything by her and have seen how extraordinary her writing and storytelling can be), I couldn’t help but be amazed and astounded by her exceptional and mind blowing writing, considering she was a 26 year old debut author when this novel was published.

The world building wasn’t as strong as I would have expected from a Well’s book but given this was her debut novel I easily forgave her. However the intricately woven plot, replete with captivating and multifaceted characters, brims with suspense and intrigue, compelling me to eagerly flip through each page. The magic system employed within the narrative was truly commendable too. Although certain aspects of it may not have been as uniquely original as found in some of Wells’ other works, it remains skillfully crafted and comprehensive, adding to the overall richness of the story.

I have a deep fascination for the intricacies of court politics, and I found myself utterly captivated by the court of Ile-Rien, particularly the interactions among the dowager queen, Ravenna, her son, King Roland, and his half-sister, Kade. The dynamics of power plays and struggles were masterfully depicted, revealing a web of betrayals and conspiracies as each character vied to outmaneuver the others and seize control. It was a compelling display of ambition and intrigue that kept me thoroughly engrossed. These complex and intertwined conflicts were my lifeblood in Ile-Rien universe; I thrived on them.

Thomas, the captain of the Queen’s Guard, is a character of remarkable depth, just like the majority of the characters in the book, embodying shades of moral ambiguity. His multifaceted nature is truly captivating, and I found myself wholeheartedly enamored by him. While possessing a fundamentally good heart, he has learned enough cynicism and deceit from his association with Ravenna to navigate the treacherous waters of court life and survive alongside her. This intriguing blend of virtues and flaws makes Thomas an enthralling and relatable character, adding to the allure of the story.

The Dowager Queen Ravenna is a truly remarkable character in her own right. Despite her weak-willed son coming of age, she refuses to relinquish the power she has wielded throughout her entire life easily. Her tenacity and determination are awe-inspiring as she navigates the complexities of court politics. Often displaying cynicism and anger, Ravenna also showcases her exceptional cleverness and resilience, honed through the crucible of violent wars she had to face to protect her land. Her multifaceted personality, blending strength and vulnerability, makes her a compelling and unforgettable presence within the narrative.

Lastly, My beloved Kade. Kade Carrion, the half-fay bastard sister to the king, is an incredible and awe-inspiring character. Despite possessing significant power, she often prefers to rely on her luck and cunning, which only adds to her enigmatic charm. Kade’s witty and snarky nature brings a delightful touch to the story, but beneath that veneer lies a profound sense of sadness, making her character even more intriguing. Her unique blend of strengths and vulnerabilities makes her truly remarkable, leaving a lasting impression on readers as they journey through the pages of the book.

The portrayal of the chemistry between Kade and Thomas was masterfully crafted, showcasing a beautifully written relationship. Martha Wells’ skillful approach to romance is evident in this book, as she never imposes it upon the reader, allowing it to evolve naturally and authentically. The interactions between Kade and Thomas were a true delight, with their conversations and exchanges seamlessly complementing one another. Their dynamic and connection were portrayed in a way that captivated my heart and left me thoroughly enamored with their evolving bond. The romantic subplot was skillfully woven into the tale, adding depth to the characters without overshadowing the main storyline.

Overall, the narrative flowed effortlessly and maintained an engaging momentum throughout. I must admit, I kind of predicted some twists in the plot, but the cleverly placed foreshadowing made the revelation all the more satisfying. Since I haven’t had the opportunity to read the original version, I cannot pinpoint the specific changes made in the revisions. Nevertheless, I must express my genuine admiration for the captivating storyline, the well-developed characters, and the enthralling world of Ile-Rien. Despite not being familiar with the original, I found the book to be a truly enjoyable and immersive experience, leaving me eager to explore more of Martha Wells’ literary creations.

Review – The Death of A Necromancer

Is it too bad to say I loved The Death of A Necromancer more than The Element of Fire, because I DID! This book was filled with humor, suspense and YES! heists! Oh, I love myself a good hiest!

Right from the beginning, the story thrusts us into the midst of a heist-in-action, introducing us to a motley crew of endearing misfits. We meet Nicholas Valiarde, whose brooding and sarcastic demeanor conceals a brilliant criminal mastermind alter ego. Joining him is Madeline Denare, a skilled practitioner of disguise, acrobatics, and directness, leading a double life as a stage actress. Completing the ensemble is Reynard Morane, a charming gentleman soldier who fell from grace due to scandal and dishonor. Together, this group of colorful characters embarks on a thrilling journey that promises intrigue and excitement.

The narrative weaves a rich and meticulously crafted world that immerses readers in a genuine and well-established setting. The atmosphere exudes an aura of old-world decay, with strong elements of spiritualism and the haunting presence of the characters’ pasts, which imbue their struggles with depth and authenticity. The detailed descriptions of societal traditions, historical events, and even architectural features paint a vivid picture, revealing the city as a mask for its gradually evolving and modernizing society. In parallel, the main characters’ personas, shaped by their criminal backgrounds, add another layer of complexity, making them intriguing and multidimensional. The book successfully merges the essence of its characters with the intricate fabric of the world they inhabit, providing an engrossing and satisfying reading experience.

It is undeniable that Wells possesses an extraordinary talent for crafting intricate worlds. She skillfully breathes life into the city and kingdom of Ile-Rein in The Death of A Necromancer, making it a truly immersive experience for readers. Whether wandering through the bustling streets of the city or exploring the eerie catacombs below, you can genuinely feel yourself transported to these places. While the individual elements of the world may not be entirely novel, the way she meticulously constructs the atmosphere and setting is truly exquisite.

The majority of the characters in the story are exceptionally vibrant and captivating. Rather than making Nicholas an exaggerated and unoriginal imitation of a vigilante, Wells skillfully portrays his genuine development throughout the narrative. Additionally, she breathes life into the supporting characters. For instance, there’s Madeline, a courageous young woman with a natural knack for magic who chose to become an actress instead. Reynard, a gentleman soldier, carries the burden of disgrace after his former lover’s tragic demise. Arisilde, a gifted sorcerer, struggles with drug addiction. Lastly, Crack and Cusard, although occasionally confusing, play their parts well. As the story unfolds, more fascinating characters join the mix. If there’s one aspect I wish for improvement, it would be the inclusion of more female characters. Nonetheless, the book manages to avoid performing poorly in this aspect.

The casual and inclusive portrayal of bisexuality within the narrative was refreshing and added a layer of representation. The engaging banter between characters was enjoyable without being overshadowed by unnecessary relationship drama, keeping the interactions lively and entertaining. The brisk pace of the plot ensured an exciting and captivating read from start to finish. Moreover, the well-crafted fantasy world, backed by thorough research, provided a compelling backdrop that immersed me in its richness and intricacies. The presence of entertaining side characters added depth and charm to the overall story, complementing the bold and daring female lead who became a captivating and empowering central figure. All these elements combined to create an enjoyable and memorable reading experience.

While this story may not be the absolute pinnacle of originality in literature, it does offer a fresh take on the classic trope of a man seeking revenge while living a double life. The narrative goes beyond predictable clichés and manages to be unique. It is an understatement to say that I am extremely happy that I finally got to read the first two books of the Ile-Rien series after all this time. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

My sincere thanks to Netgally, Tor books and Martha Wells for giving me this advance reader copy.


Book Cover

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