We’ve been discussing magic systems in fantasy books this week. There are so many different kinds of systems, some a little closer to the “classic” magic system found in earlier books, and others that are completely different.
Today, Sue from the fantastic blog Sue’s Musings, gives a wonderfully laid-out explanation of the magic system in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. You really can’t have a discussion on different magic systems in fantasy without mentioning Sanderson’s incredibly detailed and well-thought out addition to the genre.
In Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books there are three types of magic: Allomancy, Ferruchemy and Hemalurgy, with Allomancy being the most prevalent. The thing I like the most about the Allomancy system is that it makes physical sense. It is governed by the laws of physics, if a “pushing” or “pulling” force is applied to something by an Allomancer, there will be an equal and opposite reaction.
Allomancers use metals to enhance their mental and physical capabilities by ingesting them. Allomancers capable of only “burning” (or using) one metal are known as “Mistings”, whereas those who can use multiple metals at once are known as “Mistborn”. There are different types of Misting, named for their capabilities:
Coinshots use steel to “push” on metals in their area. This lets them force metals which weigh less than they do, such as coins, away from themselves at speed to act as a weapon. If a steel object weighs more than the Coinshot, physics will mean that the person is pushed away from the metallic object. A Coinshot is unable to “push” on alluminum or its alloys, so an aluminium bullet can be used to kill a Coinshot.
Lurchers “burn” iron and are able to “pull” on metals that are close by. This lets them pull metallic objects weighing less than they do towards themselves. If an iron object weighs more than the Lurcher they can pull on it to cause themselves to be pulled towards it. A Lurcher cannot feel or pull alluminium or several of its alloys.
Tineyes use Tin, to enhance their senses. Tineyes are often used as lookouts because, when burning Tin, they can see in when there is barely any light. A Tineye can be stunned for a short while by a loud noise or bright light overwhelming their senses while they are burning tin.
Tin also enhances mental capabilities and allows a Tineye, or Mistborn to assess a situation more quickly than non-Tineyes.
Pewterarms or Thugs
When burning Pewter, Pewterarms or Thugs are able to enhance their physical capabilities, allowing them to fight for longer than a normal person, or perform strenuous tasks for longer, since they become much stronger while burning pewter. This increased strength also means they can heal quicker and also have greater balancing skills, speed and dexterity. A “pewter drag” allows a Thug to run for hours at speeds similar to a racehorse. However this drains their body and requires them to continue burning pewter after the run to heal themselves and stop themself from dying of exhaustion. Running out of pewter at the wrong time can therefore be fatal to a Thug. If they are carrying something extremely heavy and their pewter runs out they could be crushed by the object.
Bronze is burned by Seekers and tells them if another Allomancer is using metals in their area.
A Seeker can often pinpoint the location of the person using metals and figure out which metal they are burning, and so what kind of capabilities they will have.
Copperclouds or Smokers
Copperclouds, affectionately known as Smokers have the ability to burn Copper and hide themselves from Seekers. The area they hide is known as a Coppercloud. Smokers therefore help Allomancers within gangs from being spotted.
By burning Zinc, Rioters are able to affect the emotions of the people around them. In this way they can incite a riot, or just affect one person within a crowd.
Soothers burn Brass and can soothe the emotions of an individual or a group of people.
An Augur can burn gold. This lets them see what might have happened if they had made different choices in the past. This can lead to emotional trauma, so it is rarely used.
Oracles can burn Electrum, an alloy of gold. This lets them see their future.
Pulsers burn Cadmium which lets them slow down time in a bubble they set around themselves. Noone can enter or leave the bubble while the Cadmium is being burned.
Sliders burn Bendalloy, which allows them to speed up time within a bubble they set around themselves. If a Pulser and Slider set a bubble at the same place their effects cancel each other out.
Nicrobursts or NicrosA Nicro burns Nicrosil, which causes their target’s metals to burn off in a brief intense flash.There has to be physical contact for this to work.
Seers are able to burn Atium, one of three “God metals”, the others being Lerasium and Malatium. Atium is mined in the Pits of Hathsin and is the most valuable metal in the world and coveted by the nobility and Allomancers. Atium lets the Mistborn burning it see a few seconds into the future, which lets them anticipate the moves of their opponent. It also enhances their mind to help them understand these new insights, effectively making a Mistborn invincible for a short amount of time. Atium burns very quickly.
The other two God metals are not used by specific types of Allomancers and are:
Lerasium lets the burner (which can be anyone) become a Mistborn, giving them access to all of the Allomantic metals. These beads are the source of Mistborn, which is a genetic trait.
Malatium is an alloy of Atium and Gold which lets an Allomancer see someone’s past. In legend it is called the Eleventh Metal. Kelsier thought it would defeat the Lord Ruler when burned in his presence, but that did not happen. Instead, it showed Vin the Lord Ruler’s possible life as a mountain guide. From this vision she worked out that he was Rashek, not Alendi and was able to figure out how to defeat him.
Feruchemy is the second magic system in the Mistborn series. I find this to be a particularly intriguing magic system. It would be fantastic to be able to store away knowledge, strength or wakefulness for a time in the future when you might need it. You could revise for an important exam and store all of the knowledge away in a metalmind. You wouldn’t have any of those useless facts floating about in your brain as you went about your daily business. Then you would be able to retrieve all of the knowledge exactly when it is needed.
A Ferruchemist does not burn metals in the way that an Allomancer does. Instead they use them to store up their own power – as containers known as “minds”. A Ferruchemist can transfer all of their energy into a mind but will then be without energy until they become rested and restored. They can draw on the stored up energy at a later date. A Feruchemist can draw out the power of the metalmind with barely any upper limit, using it up in one big burst if they want. In this way a Feruchemist using a pewtermind can be a whole lot stronger than a powerful Mistborn burning pewter, but for a limited time. The Terris people such as Sazed have Ferruchemy in their genes.
Taken from the Mistborn Wiki (https://mistborn.fandom.com/wiki/Mistborn_Wiki)
* Iron: Stores Weight. Less weight slows descent . A Skimmer Ferring using this will decrease the pull of gravity on them in exchange for increasing it later.
* Steel: Stores Physical Speed. A Steelrunner Ferring using this will be physically slower now in exchange for being faster later.
* Tin: Stores Senses. A Windwhisperer Ferring using this will become less sensitive in one of the five senses of his choice (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) in exchange for heightening that sense later.
* Pewter: Stores Strength. A Brute Ferring using this will lessen the size of his muscles to increase them later
* Zinc: Stores Mental Speed. A Sparker Ferring using this will think very slowly in exchange for thinking faster later.
* Brass: Stores Warmth. Firesoul Ferrings using this will cool themselves in exchange for being able to warm themselves later by tapping the metalmind.
* Copper: Stores Memories. An Archivist Ferring using this will be able to store memories inside copper, forget it, then will be able to recall it with perfect clarity later while withdrawing it from the metal.
* Bronze: Stores Wakefulness. A Sentry Ferring using this will sleep or be drowsier now in exchange for staying awake longer later.
* Cadmium: Stores Breath. A Gasper Ferring may hyperventilate while storing breath in exchange for eliminating or reducing the need to breathe later on.
* Bendalloy: Stores Energy. A Subsumer Ferring using this can consume large quantities of food and store the calories in the metalmind, in exchange for the ability to forgo eating later.
* Gold: Stores Health. A Bloodmaker Ferring using this will feel sick now in exchange for increased regeneration and healing later.
* Electrum: Stores Determination. A Pinnacle Ferring using this will become depressed in exchange for a manic state when tapping the metalmind.
* Chromium: Stores Fortune. A Spinner Ferring will become unlucky during active storage in exchange for increased fortune later.
* Nicrosil: Stores Investiture. Little is known about Soulbearer Ferrings.
* Aluminum: Stores Identity. Trueself Ferrings can store their spiritual sense of self within an aluminum metalmind.
* Duralumin: Stores Connection. A Connector Ferring can store spiritual connection inside a metalmind, reducing friendship and outside awareness during active storage, in exchange for the ability to quickly form friendships and relationships while tapping.
* Atium: Stores Age. A Feruchemist using this will become older now in exchange for becoming younger later, the same amount of years for the same time.
Mistborn Allomancers who are able to also use Ferruchemy, such as the Lord Ruler gain great advantages over their opponents. There are certain Allomancers called Twinborns, who can only access one type of metalmind, and also have one Allomantic power (the following is taken from the Mistborn Wiki: https://mistborn.fandom.com/wiki/Mistborn_Wiki):
* By burning a metal containing a stored attribute, such as burning atium which contains youth, the user effectively makes a profit on the attribute stored in the metal due to allomancy’s property of drawing power from the metal. Thus the user gains more of the attribute than invested. A Twinborn who can do this is called a Compounder. An example of this process is the Lord Ruler’s immortality which he achieves through periods spent aged and sickly, storing youth in atium and health in gold, which he later burns and stores in the main metalminds which sustain him. With effectively limitless amounts of youth and healing, he convincingly posed as a god. Note that the attribute stored must have originated from the user, hence Vin’s inability to use the power in Sazed’s pewtermind.
* If a Feruchemist taps an Ironmind and steelpushes or ironpulls, then they can increase their weight to become the anchor for the push or pull, even if an enemy also manipulating the piece of metal weighs more, or the metal weighs more than the user. One could also decrease their weight to gain more movement of their own body from each push or pull.
* If a Feruchemist taps a Pewtermind, Steelmind, Bronzemind, and Goldmind and Allomantically burns Pewter, they will gain increase in Strength, Speed, Wakefulness and Health beyond what one would normally be able to achieve. This will work if you tap smaller combinations of those minds, however, only for the attributes you tap.
* Likewise, if a Feruchemist taps a Tinmind and Allomantically burns Tin, then their senses will increase beyond what one would normally be able to achieve.
* If one Allomantically burns a metal then fills the Metalmind of the same attribute, they can fill the metalmind without lessening that attribute. This is why one might burn pewter to fill a Goldmind, then fill an Atiummind and tap the Goldmind, possibly creating the Lord Ruler’s ability to live forever. This is most prevalent with burning pewter, which can fill Pewtermind, Steelmind, Zincmind, Brassmind, Bronzemind, and Goldmind.
* If a Pewtermind is filled using Allomancy burning pewter, then the Feruchemist won’t experience an increase in muscle size when they tap their collected strength from the Metalmind. This allowed the Lord Ruler to tap enormous strength without revealing his use of Feruchemy to onlookers.
The third magic system in Mistborn is called Hemalurgy. This one creeped me out somewhat as it involves metal spikes being inserted into a person’s body/vital organs.
Taken from the Mistborn wiki (https://mistborn.fandom.com/wiki/Mistborn_Wiki):
To use Hemalurgy, a metal spike must be driven through someone’s heart. Then the spike is taken and stabbed into the body of another person, the location of which determines the power transferred. The preferred method is to stab it directly through the heart into the other person, as the longer it is left out of the body the more power is lost. While Allomancy is the art of Preservation and Feruchemy is the art of balance, Hemalurgy is the art of Ruin, as the transfer of power destroys some of it. Allomancy creates power, and Feruchemy does not destroy or create, but preserves. Having a hemalurgic enhancement makes one susceptible to Ruin’s influence (e.g. Zane, to whom Ruin could directly communicate; and Vin, who occasionally heard Ruin’s voice in her head, though she mistook it for memories of her brother, Reen) or even to his control (e.g. Steel Inquisitors in books two and three). This, along with the fact that kandra and koloss, both of which are hemalurgically enhanced, can be controlled by Soothing, leads to the further speculation that hemalurgic enhancement of any kind makes one susceptible to being controlled by an outside force.
* Iron: Steals human strength
* Steel: Steals Allomantic physical powers
* Tin: Steals human senses
* Pewter: Steals Feruchemical physical powers
* Brass: Steals Feruchemical cognitive attributes
* Zinc: Steals human emotional fortitude
* Copper: Steals human mental fortitude, memory, and intelligence
* Bronze: Steals Allomantic mental powers
* Aluminum: Removes all powers
* Duralumin: Steals Connection/Identity
* Atium: Steals all Allomantic and Feruchemical powers
* Malatium: Unknown
* Gold: Steals Feruchemical hybrid powers
* Electrum: Steals Allomantic Enhancement powers
Hemalurgy + Allomancy
When an Allomancer increases a certain aspect of themselves using Hemalurgy this aspect can gain new powers assuming the Allomancer can already use this power.
What each metal does after Hemalurgically increased is as follows:
An Allomancer is able to pull much harder. Since Steel Inquisitors can pull upon metals inside people’s bodies, it is assumed this power is granted also
An Allomancer is able to push much harder. Since Steel Inquisitors can push upon metals in people’s bodies, it is assumed this power is also granted.
A Seeker can pierce Copperclouds.
A Smoker can prevent his cloud from being pierced, and put his cloud around a wider range.
A Soother is able to soothe peoples emotions at more drastic rates
A Rioter is able to Riot peoples emotions at more drastic rates.
A Tineye is able to increase their senses to far higher rates.
A Pewterarm is able to have incredible strength when burning pewter.
Hemalurgically Enhanced Groups/Characters
* Steel Inquisitors (many spikes in various places in their bodies)
Marsh- He became a Steel Inquisitor at the end of book one and provided the crew with more in-depth knowledge of the nature of the Inquisitors.
* kandra (a pair of spikes called the kandra blessings)
* koloss (four spikes positioned in various places in their body)
* Vin (earring that her mother gave to her)
* Zane (spike through the middle of his chest that allowed the God Ruin to speak to him and likely granted him increased precision with steel)
* Spook (tip of a sword left in his shoulder during a fight lets him burn pewter
For more information, check out the Mistborn Wiki (https://mistborn.fandom.com/wiki/Mistborn_Wiki):
About the Blogger:
Sue Bavey: Sue is an English mum of two teens living in Massachusetts with husband, kids, a cat, and a bunny. She enjoys reading all kinds of genres, especially fantasy, historical fiction, and thrillers.
Where to find Sue:
Blog: Sue Bavey – Book Blurb
For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld
6 thoughts on “From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Let’s Talk Mistborn!”
Reblogged this on Sue's Musings and commented:
My article on magic in the Mistborn books by Brandon Sanderson = written for a series hosted by Witty and Sarcastic Book Club earlier this year.