From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This

This week on my blog, we’re talking about magic systems: the possibilities are endless! Sometimes I read a book that has such a fascinating use of magic that I would happily read an entire book that talks only about the magic and how it works, how it affects the characters, or how its development or absence has changed the world. Here are a few books whose magic I’d love to know much more about:

The Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold:

What is interesting about the magic system in the Fetch Phillips Archives is that it’s gone. This world was once very much dependent on magic, but thanks to the actions of a certain disgraced P.I., that has changed. How it’s affected the magical beings in this world is fascinating and unexpected. There’s a scene involving a unicorn in Dead Man in a Ditch (book 2) that is absolutely heartbreaking.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart:

In this book, the Emperor uses bone shard magic. Basically, he uses shards of bone gathered from his subjects to animate and control constructs. Commands must be etched into the shards, but they need to be worded specifically and with great care in order to be effective. It caused me both an “ew” and “ooh” reaction. I am not sure if it qualifies as a magic “system” per se, since this is a skill only practiced by the emperor, his daughter, and his foster son. Or does that still qualify as a system? What say you?

The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga:

I’m only about halfway through this book and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. I am still learning how the magic works. The royalty has abilities, but no one else does. The magical abilities themselves are incredibly unique. They run in the family but, like eye or hair color, abilities vary, and some abilities might be inherited-or it might skip a generation. Sibylla, a princess, has ink that leaks from under her fingernails. This is an ability that has to be written creatively, as it isn’t something that would have a ton of usefulness on its surface. Although, I suspect that it might have something to do with certain nefarious doings.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides:

Did you know that you can mix dragon crap (cue the Jurassic Park meme) to perform magic? I didn’t either, but it was a really cool way to explain magic. Basically, based on what a dragon eats, the properties of its, um, droppings mix to create a different form of Grit. Grit can explode, cause a person to float, or even shield someone. I can’t say I’ve ever read a magic system based entirely on poop before. It works, though.

What I appreciate about magic in Robert Jackson Bennett’s world is that it is complex and incredibly different. Known as scriving, which felt to me a little like computer coding-gone-magical. Basically, it’s a way of sort of convincing something to act in a way that’s contrary to its purpose. How cool is that? I can’t say I’ve ever read anything remotely similar to Foundryside’s magic system. It’s rather complicated, though, and I would love to dive into the workings of it more deeply.

What about you? What are some magic systems in books that you would love to know more about?


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