Edition: Baen, 2001 (available for download from http://www.baen.com/library/hlisle.htm)
Review number: 1050
When shepherdess Faia returns to her home to find that the whole village has been wiped out by plague, she uses one of the spells taught her by her mother to turn it into a pool of lava as part of her response to her grief. This turns out to be a hugely powerful spell, and commands the attention of mages (female) and sages (male) from the town which houses the university in which magicians are trained. An untrained, strong talent is very dangerous, both to its owner and to those around them, so Faia is more or less forced to accompany them back to the Oxbridge style setting of Ariss. Unable to fit in with the generally aristocratic pupils, Faia is stunned when the age old war between the sexes - carefully segregated in the misty city - threatens to break out again.
Even in her early novels like this one, Lisle's concern to promote the role of women in the fantasy genre is apparent. (It is never allowed to affect the interest of her story, however.) Fire in the Mist is an excellent light fantasy novel, with more to it than most, an apprenticeship for the later and more challenging Secret Texts trilogy.