I read this book sometime between 2000 and 2009 but can't truthfully say if it was new at that time. Fantasy world in the usual Medieval village tech level setting.

Most people have a power which manifests around puberty. Some are pyrokinetic. Others are known as "swifts" as they can, for a short time, be as quick as the Flash.

Yet another type are "invulnerables"because their injuries recover very very quickly and they spend most of their life smashing their fists against rocks to give themselves two solid weapons. . There is (I can't remember why) a conflict between two towns.

Swifts on both sides are zipping around the battlefield hitting with clubs. Invulnerable are battering at each other and whichever enemy crosses their path. The pyro ones are criss crossing heat beams and trying to incinerate opponents.

The military turns up on horseback to stop this, the " Light Brigade ", they too are pyro's but very high level adepts and after a few well placed beams they begin restoring order and stacking the charred bodies

That's all I got for this book

P.S. there may well (and probably were) other traits/powers as well but the only three I remember are mentioned above

  • I know this, but it was a book I borrowed from the library so I can't ransack my books to find it. The invulnerables were miners I think and they barricaded the river to prevent barge traffic. I think the pyros were importing something the invulnerables used to supply and it was a protest against that. The battle broke out when the pyros tried to remove the barricade. I thnk the book title has storm in it, though I may be mixing it up with the (unrelated) book Polystom. I recall thinking the style was quite like Adam Roberts' books. – John Rennie Oct 24 '17 at 9:27
  • Ha! Got it! The lightbulb finally went on. – John Rennie Oct 24 '17 at 11:40

Worldstorm by James Lovegrove. The book is available on Google books here.

There are four inclinations, roughly following the four elements. The people you've remembered as the invulnerables are the Earth oriented people and are called Strongs. They increase their strength by testing it, hence they pound rocks with their fists to make their fists stronger and harder.

The fire oriented people are the Incendiaries. The fight between the two groups is the Battle of Penresford and happens when the Incendiaries are trying to remove a barrier that the Strongs have created at Penresford to block river traffic. The Incendiaries are forbidden from using their fire on other humans, and their original intention is just to burn the barricade across the river. However, when the Strongs start fighting back, tempers flare (literally) and carnage ensues.

Unfortunately, the sample on Google Books ends before the seventh cavalry arrive and I can't remember what they are called. However, they are a highly trained group of Incendiaries whose job is to intervene in conflicts between the different inclinations. Once they arrive they end the battle quickly, but not before many deaths on both side.

The Air inclined are indeed called Swifts and they aid in the battle much as you describe, fighting on the side of the Incendiaries. I don't remember anything about the Water inclined group.

There is a lot more to the book. It turns into a quest to end the reality-changing storms called worldstorms, hence the title. I recall the book as rather sprawling - I loved the world building but it got a bit unfocused when it moved on to the questing. However, it isn't without its subtleties. For example, in the battle it is far from clear who is to blame. Both sides have reasonable grievances and both sides suffer many deaths (though I think the Strongs come off worse). There is at least the implication that the Incendiaries are the superior element and have the responsibility to protect the other inclinations, and there is much guilt and soul searching among the Incendiaries after the battle.

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