Oil and Dust (The Elemental Artist #1), by Jami Fairleigh

1 Mar 2023

The Book

Oil and Dust
Series: The Elemental Artist
Pages: 510
Age Group: Adult
Published on 1 Sept 2021
Publisher: Self-Published
Available on:


When all has been lost, we find ourselves…

Out of the ashes of destruction, a new world has arisen. The plagues of the past—the worship of greed and pursuit of power—are gone. Now, the communities that remain in this post-apocalyptic world focus on creating connections, on forging futures filled with family and love. And all with the help of hard work, hope… and a little bit of magic.

Artist Matthew Sugiyama knows this well. Traveling the countryside in search of the family he lost as a child, he trades his art for supplies—and uses his honed magic to re-draw the boundaries of reality, to fashion a world that is better for those he meets.

Following glimpses of visions half-seen, Matthew—and the friends he encounters along the way—will travel a path from light to darkness and back again. A road where things lost in the past can only be found in the love of the present, and the hope for the future.

And he will travel this path wherever it leads. From joy to sorrow, from tears to laughter. Because Matthew is the Elemental Artist, and he knows that though dangers arise, humanity will always triumph… in a world he has painted in shades of Oil and Dust.

Author Jami Farleigh invites you to meet a rich tapestry of characters, and to travel through a world that blends fantasy, laughter, coming of age, and evocative literary stylings to create a perfect escape. Fans of The Goblin Emperor, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, The Language of Flowers, and Quarter Share will delight in this tale of humor, humanity, and the power of hope.  

My Review

Oil and Dust is the first book in the Elemental Artist series, by Jami Fairleigh, and placed 12th among the finalists of BBNYA 2022. Despite being labeled as a fantasy novel, I would call it better a post-apocalyptic story; set in an America where greed and corruption have brought the downfall on man, taking it to a world where technology is much less common; people have learnt to live in community, accepting each one a function to make it work. A world where artists are valued and treated as a fundamental part of society.

And that brings us to our main character: Matthew Sugiyama, an artist with a really valuable quality that makes him almost a star, as he's able to bring to life his paintings, altering reality with them. Any community would like to keep him as a part of them, but Matthew has his own mission: discover all that he can about his family, and hopefully reunite with it.
This premise is the main point of the plot, living the journey through the eyes of Matthew, as he will be our narrator in this adventure that will take him to several communities; all in the search of that family, and with a surrounding mystery, as somebody called T is sending letters to those communities trying to keep him in one place.

Matthew is an exceptional character, and we will be able to experience his growth alongside the journey, mostly due to the experience with other people and the contact with a reality that wasn't part of the abbey where he was trained. Each single of the characters that Fairleigh has created is unique, with its own flaws and virtues, a singular piece that makes the machine this novel is work.

The world shown in Oil and Dust is really original, using the post-apocalyptic setting to construct a utopian society, where each one has a place in the communities. Art is valued as a treasure due to its ability to shape reality. The downfall of modern society has been taken as a lesson of what greed and corruption bring to society, and how it shouldn't be repeated; as it is embodied in the nursery rhyme "Politics, Money, Power, Religion, and Greed. These are the things we never again need.”

I can't end the review without talking about the gorgeous prose that Fairleigh shows throughout the novel. In a book where an artist is the main character, it is fairly interesting to see how detailed and vivid are the descriptions, creating gorgeous images with words.

Oil and Dust is an excellent novel, a novel about growth in a journey through the eyes of a really special character. Certainly, a well-deserved finalist on BBNYA 2022, and I recommend everybody to read it!

The Author/s

Jami Fairleigh

Jami Fairleigh

Jami Fairleigh is a biracial, Japanese-American writer, urban planner, and hobby collector from Washington. She shares her life with a husband, a trio of well-mannered horses, a pair of dubiously behaved parrots, and one neurotic dog.

Her writing has been published by Terror House Magazine, Horror Tree, Defenestration, and Amsterdam Quarterly. She is currently working on the third novel in the Elemental Artist fantasy series.