From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Weather Warden

This week Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub is being joined by a great group of bookbloggers and authors, discussing magic systems in fantasy books. This is such a huge subject and there are so many books with killer magic systems!

Author Rachel Caine has created some incredibly distinctive magic systems in her books. Tabitha from the excellent blog, Behind the Pages, has offered to talk a little about the magic system in Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series.

Tabitha:

When I found out Jodie over at Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub was doing a project based on magic systems I had to join in! Unique magic systems are a key element to the fantasy books I truly enjoy. While characters certainly play a large part in what I love, I need the magic system to be a worthy component as well. Today we’ll take a look at the magic in the urban fantasy Weather Warden Series by Rachel Caine.

Little do people know, there is an organization of magic users taming the wildest of Earth’s natural disasters. The Wardens Association is made up of people who have abilities to manipulate fire, earth, and the weather. But the magic they use has to be executed carefully, or the disasters they try to quell can become phenomenally worse. All those natural disasters that have happened at devastating proportions? Someone made a mistake and manipulated the wrong molecule.

The magic in the Weather Warden series leans more towards a soft magic system. While it’s based on science, manipulating molecules, and meteorology, there are fantastical elements as well. Each warden generally possesses one of the three abilities. Those who possess more than one are rare and often more powerful than the wardens who possess only one. If you possess more than one, chances are you’ll have a target on your back as well. The Wardens Association doesn’t like what it can’t control and views people with too much power the same way it views a devastating storm. They need to destroy them before they can no longer be contained.

As long as you fly below their power radar, the Wardens Association will take you in and educate you on taming the Earth. Unless of course, you can’t even control your singular power. They will magically neuter you if you prove inept. Most likely this will turn you into a babbling incoherent person they then put into a hospital to live out the rest of their lives.

But what happens when the Earth throws a particularly nasty disaster that even the combined power of the wardens can’t handle? Well, that’s where the Djinn come in. Djinn are creatures of fire that are manipulative and spiteful. Though I can’t say I blame them, as most people who encounter a free Djinn try to immediately bind them into servitude. 

The Wardens Association keeps Djinn trapped in bottles to help amplify their own power when needed. The Djinn are little more than slaves to most. Tools to be used then stuffed away, even though they have thoughts, feelings, and emotions just like any other person. And those wardens who show they will play nice with others, rise up in the ranks of the association and earn themselves their own slave to use.

It’s a twisted world and oftentimes the main character, Joanne, battles with what is morally right and wrong. As much as the wardens help people by taming the Earth, they can be pretty corrupt. But it isn’t just the wardens you have to watch out for. Sometimes, natural disasters are caused by demons trying to enter our world.

What is your immediate thought when you think of demons? It’s probably something along the lines of what traditional stories paint them as. Horns, pitchforks, nasty creatures that are some combination of human and animal. In the Weather Warden series, demons are like a parasite. They leech onto wardens, draining their power from the inside out. Sometimes the victim doesn’t even know it until it’s too late. And as the demon leeches a person’s power, it also begins to corrupt their very being. Turning them violent and unpredictable. 

The problem is with demons, they won’t leave a powerful magical host. They sit and squirm, growing until they can no longer be contained by the body they’ve taken over. To say letting a demon fully manifest is a disaster would be putting it mildly. The amount of magic and power released by a demon is catastrophic and just about the world ending.

I love the Weather Warden series. The use of magic is so original and refreshing. The way Joanna can manipulate the molecules around her and change the atmosphere is fantastic. Not to mention the constant twists and turns that are thrown throughout the series as the use of magic by the main character evolves. It is definitely one of my favorite urban fantasy series. And I highly encourage you to give it a try!

About the blogger: Hello everyone! My name is Tabitha and I run a review blog called Behind the Pages. It’s my little corner of the internet where I geek out about books. I’m an avid fantasy reader, but dabble in other genres from time to time. Book blogging has allowed me to connect with so many other people who love reading as much as I do. I hope you enjoy this snippet of my bookish thoughts!

Find Behind the Pages on her blog: Behind the Pages

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- 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- 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?

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death

Today, I’m moving on to the darker side of magic in fantasy. You know, the sort that gives you shivers and speaks of power and things that cannot be contained. I’m fortunate to be joined by author Maria Blackrane as she discusses magic in her upcoming debut, Blood, Fire, and Death.

Maria Blackrane:

Hello! I’m Maria, and I’m currently editing my debut novel, Blood, Fire, & Death. It’s a “girl power” dark fantasy that takes place in a militant matriarchal culture in a country called Helvendias. It’s about a main ruling family, the Darkthornes, and their group of close friends who wade through drama, politics, and war to stay on top of their world in some rather morally black ways. The main female lead, Pensilea Belith Darkthorne, is to inherit the crown but her grandmother refuses to pass it to her, which causes conflict between them. It follows her the challenges of her kind of life, her mental and emotional struggles with the world around her, how she navigates through political drama and handles men seeking her for the prize, to father the next queen.  

As for the magic system, its very title, Blood, Fire, & Death represents their three main deities. Keldoreth, the god of war and blood, his sister Azaliel, goddess of death who walks through the battlefield and places a flower on the slain warriors before her brother Keldoreth takes them to his Hall. Their mother Mala, is the goddess of the underworld and fire. Much of the story centers around their worship and loyalty to their gods, the practices dedicated to them. Three is a sacred number, symbolic of their three deities. Their use of trident spears as weapons reflects that. It’s also their country’s emblem. Three points are for each deity. They refer to Mala as “the mother of them all,” for they believe her to be the true founder of their country, Helvendias. 

There are three priest circles dedicated to the deities. There is a sacred fire, like a portal that leads to her underworld, maintained by a circle of priestesses trained in fire magic. Similar to the Vestal virgins and Zoroastrian fire temples, which I loosely based on them. The purpose of their fire magic is to control the fires and for purification rituals. Also, people can seek Mala’s wisdom by being guided by a priestess through the portal. I based her on Hekate, so she carries a torch and is something of an “enlightener” figure. The main character’s grandmother Thora has fire capabilities because she’s descended from fire witches, only she’s used it for destructive purposes. Her grandchildren, twins Pensilea and Leorin, inherited it from her. She has prophetic dreams of them causing great destruction with it and pissing off the Mother Goddess, so she forbids them to be able to access any kind of magic.

Next are priests who serve Azaliel, the death goddess. They oversee the death rites and guide spirits into the Afterlife or to Keldoreth’s hall for slain warriors. Their practices are more Shamanic, where they act like mediums between the living and the spirit worlds. They assist in ritualistic human sacrifices. 

The priests of Keldoreth train in combat magic. They create stealth on the battlefield and the warriors go into a battle meditation while the priests infuse them with blessings of strength. Keldoreth’s aspect is blood, so they perform human sacrifice rituals with captured enemy warriors as blood gifts to him. 

The religion worships life and sex and as much as they do blood and death. Sex is a powerful energy. They engage in ritualistic sex for certain celebrations, such as the Festival of the Wolf Goddess, which is a fertility festival. They also believe sexual energy strengthens magic and blessings so they engage in it during some rituals, especially after the blood offerings. 

Helvendias refer to the ocean, the Cathian Sea, as the “goddess of life” since it’s their livelihood. Their food source comes from the sea, they extract their medicines and healing oils from seaweed, so they rely heavily on the sea to sustain them. There is a scene in Chapter 1 where my main character, Pensilea, is watching a circle of priests on the beach bless the fishing ships before they take off. It’s a ritual that involves prayers and burning sage around them. They pray to the goddess of life for an abundant catch. But just as they pray for life, they also worship blood and death. I point this dichotomy out in different ways throughout the book. Pensilea watches her priest lover among the circle pray to the goddess of life, while he has also performs human sacrifices. She often ponders the life and death aspects of the religion of her people.

“Pensilea chuckled to herself at the irony of life and death. How those who sanctified battle also praised life. The very priests who sacrificed lives also uttered the sacredness of it. Hands that kill can also give life.” 

“How many have died under his blade, bleeding out on a cold stone slab? Yet, there he was, praying to the goddess of life. Oh, death and life.”

How one becomes a priest is that it’s actually a blood type. I refer to people with this blood type to as the Bloodkind, with the ability to access higher senses and powers. One can only inherit it from both parents. At age twelve, they enter an academy and after a few years, they’re evaluated on where their skills and powers lean toward to see which deity they’ll serve. Not all Bloodkind choose to become priests. Why would someone choose not to? Believe it or not, it’s more grueling than fighting school, there’s a lot more commitment involved. Using their powers can take a mental and physical toll on them. They spend a few days in rest and meditation to recover. Those with the blood type who do not become priests are allowed to perform certain rituals, spells, and to access some minor powers. Pensilea can communicate telepathically with crows, for example. They also are stronger and faster with higher senses, which are useful in combat.

Look for Blood, Fire, and Death on October 27th.

About the author:

Maria Blackrane was born in upstate NY under the sign of Gemini some decades ago. She discovered a passion for writing when she was six years old. She started writing stories about the adventures of people and their pets before she moved on to more twisted subjects later on in life. She studied history and anthropology and took creative writing classes as electives. Her favorite genres to read and write are horror, darkfantasy, and grimdark. In her spare time, she’s a horse rider, wine witch, and collects dead things.

From Merlin to Mistborn- Magic for Mercenary Kings

This week, I’ve gotten the opportunity to hear from some excellent bookbloggers and authors about magic in fantasy. I have yet to read The Mercenary Kings by Nick Martell but Fantasy Book Nerd, bookblogger extraordinaire, has succeeded in moving it up my massive tbr with his explanation of magic in Martell’s books. Check it out below!

Fantasy Book Nerd: When I was asked to do this by Jodie, I have to admit that I had to wrack my brains for a maximum of about two seconds before I knew what I wanted to discuss. And that was Nick Martell’s magic system, which I have found to be one of the most fascinating magic systems that I have read recently.

Now, I know that Nick Martell has only released two books in an ongoing series, but with both ‘The Kingdom of Liars’ and ‘The Two Faced Queen’, the magic is developing in ways that I didn’t expect.

For those of you that have not read these books, I will try to avoid spoilers because as I said the story is still developing, and no one likes spoilers. 

Right, before we go anywhere let’s first look at the word ‘magic’! What does it actually mean? 

There are many definitions of the word. The Collins English Dictionary describes it as: –

  1. The Power to use supernatural forces to make something happen, such as making things disappear or controlling events in nature.
  2. You can use magic when you are referring to an event that is so wonderful, strange, or unexpected that it seems as if supernatural powers have caused it. You can also say that something happens as if by magic or like magic.
  3. You use magic to describe something that does things, or appears to do things, by magic.
  4. If you refer to the magic of something, you mean that it has a special mysterious quality which makes it seem wonderful and exciting.

    Hmm, all of these definitions of magic apply in fantasy fiction really don’t they, each and every one, and they are prominent in each of the magic systems that I have read.

Prior to discussing the magic in the books of Nick Matell, let me tell you a little of the story for those that don’t know it. The main focus of the book is Michael Kingsman, the disgraced son of the king’s right hand man, David Kingsman who was executed for killing the king’s young son. 

That is about as much as I am going to tell you about the plot. 

I have found in fantasy books, there are many ways that magic systems are introduced, some authors will describe how their systems work in one go and will give the information in one long exposition, and others will drip feed the system throughout the book as the story demands,and it will be used as a device to move the story along.

Fabrication,the magic system of The Kingdom of Liars comes in many forms, such as light and dark fabrication. Additionally, the magic can take different forms and be individualised to each person, with the effects of the magic having a different effect on those that use it. As the story progresses, we learn that there are Lightning and metal fabricators. 

In Nick Martell’s books, the power of fabrication is primarily used for militaristic purposes, and most of the characters (especially if they are from the lower classes)  strive to get into the Fabricator  army, or in guard service. At this stage of the books, it isn’t described as being intrinsic or part of the essence of the world like in some other fantasy systems. 

Now, when describing magic systems, they can effectively be placed in the soft magic/hard magic camps. Depending on the author they can fluctuate between the two on a literal spectrum and can have as many or few rules as the author sees fit.

You all may have heard of a relatively unknown author by the name of Brandon Sanderson (yes, yes! That was a terrible example of sarcasm) who puts forth that there are rules in relation to magic systems.

(I have no doubt that someone will have mentioned the difference between the soft and hard magic camps. But just in case they haven’t, here is a quick recap).

Soft magic follows very few laws. However, there is a law attached to it, in that if it is used to solve problems, in a deus ex machina kind of way, it can diminish the impact of the magic system.

However, with hard magic there are explicit rules for the magic system and the characters do not step outside the boundaries.

Additional to this, there is the middle ground, in which the author designs a set of rules, but they are fluid as the story progresses. 

(If you want to read these set of essays on the rules of magic, then I suggest you go to Brandon Sanderson’s website and have a look, they are all  rather good pieces, and I attribute all the words above to those pieces)

Looking at Nick Martell’s books, the magic system in there definitely falls into the hard magic camp, (now please don’t quote me on any of this. This is conjecture on my part). Throughout the book, most of the characters can only have one fabrication (although, there are exceptions to this rule, but it is very rare). The magic is based on tangible things in nature i.e. elements, such as lightning, metal, smoke, fire, light, dark etc. and they may take on certain characteristics of the said fabrication. For instance, if you are a metal fabricator, you can alter your body to be hard and impervious to damage. However,it doesn’t make you impervious to everything as  this can be negated by a lightning fabricator who could use your body as a conductor for electricity or maybe throw you in a pool of water, in which you sink as if you are heavy, like metal. 

From the outset, Nick Martell is applying rules to the magic system. This obviously has an effect on the reader, as it is applying boundaries and laws and also giving the reader a limit as to what magic can achieve, thus making the reader more involved with any plot developments that may arise.

However, when you look at Nick Martell’s magic system, it is not just the ‘what can the magic system actually do’ point that makes it interesting, it is also the ’what can’t it do, and the effects that it has on the user’ that elevates it’s wow factor.

In his essay on the second law of magic systems, Sanderson identifies that limitations are greater than powers. He then goes on to discuss that in the Wheel of Time,Robert Jordan introduced one of the greatest costs to any magic system, in that men who use magic lose their sanity, thus increasing the jeopardy when using a magic system and has ramifications on the story and the characters..

Similarly, in Nick Martell’s magic system, he introduces a significant cost to the use of magic. The concept is introduced in the early stages of the book when Nick Martell highlights that the use of magic leads to the user losing memories. This could be some simple everyday memory. However, this is not the only cost. In some instances it can leave the user blind, because they have ‘forgotten’ how to carry out this intrinsic task. And if there is a constant use of magic, the user is at risk of becoming something called ‘a forgotten’ which is basically a fantasy representation of Alzheimer’s, where the person loses most functional skills, in addition to their memories. This weakness of the magic system introduces some pretty large ramifications to the story in that it introduces a significant element of risk and thus reducing the use of magic as a ‘deus ex machina’ plot device.

In the second of his two books, he expands the magic system to include other races in the world and differing systems. However, again, he introduces cost, and I have to say that in this instance, the ramifications are more visceral in that the use of magic comes directly from the infliction of pain, and this pain comes from the user in order to access magic. So, the user may break their own fingers, or use other instances of pain. However, either way there is a cost that can have a permanent and lasting damage to the magic user.

As you can see, this gives the reader the sense of jeopardy and brings to the fore that magic cannot solve all the problems that Michael Kingsman comes across, thus having to force him to use other methods that he may have at his disposal, such as his wits, or other tools. 

Now, we come to the final bit of the magic system. How does the magic system develop and grow? 

Relating this to Sanderson’s third law of magic, Expand what you already have before you add something new. .

Throughout both Kingdom of Liars and The Two Faced Queen, Nick Martell is constantly evolving the magic system. In the first chapters of The Kingdom of Liars we are introduced to just the two fabrications – Light and Dark Fabrications. However, as the story progresses and the main character is attempting to find his own power, we are introduced to the other facets of fabrication, and that people have other abilites beyond these two powers. We learn that there is lightning, metal and a plethora of other interesting things. And then we come to the second book, The Two Faced Queen, again the magic system is expanded with the introduction of other races and cultures. But not only that, there is the big expansion of the magic system, and when I say big, I mean big. However, I am not going to tell you anything about that – major plot spoiler!  However, the expansion of the magic system with the other cultures is relatable as it is building on to a similar concept used by Michael and the other characters in the book.

Right, there you have it. My ramblings on Nick Martell’s magic system. I hope you enjoyed it and please check out the other contributors on this week of magic systems..

About the Blogger: Fantasy Book Nerd here! As you can see from the name, I might have a bit of a thing for fantasy. 
I know, shocking isn’t it? I don’t know what gave it away!
Anyway, if you liked what I wrote, you can find some more reviews on www.fantasybooknerd.com. Don’t be scared, I don’t bite, and neither does Frank – The skelebog jester who guards the site.
Oh, and I also occasionally post on Gingernuts of Horror.

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- 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 – Magic in the Copper Circle

This week I’ve been fortunate to welcome many guest contributors on my blog to chat about magic systems in fantasy. I am privileged to have Dan Fitzgerald, author of the (fantastic) Maer Cycle and the upcoming Weirdwater Confluence. One thing I really enjoyed about the magic in the Maer Cycle was how the magic seemed to be connected to the character’s own energy. It was incredibly unique and led to interesting growth.

Instead of carrying on and possibly butchering any descriptions, Dan Fitzgerald will explain his magic system.


Dan Fitzgerald:

I’m thrilled to be invited by Jodie of the Witty and Sarcastic Book Club to discuss the magic system in my newly named Copper Circle, which includes the Maer Cycle trilogy, the upcoming Weirdwater Confluence duology, and the planned Time Before trilogy. There are several systems in the Maer Cycle, but I’m going to focus on the one that connects to the other series, which is inspired by yoga and meditation, with a little alchemy and artificing mixed in. 

In the Maer Cycle, we meet Finn, whose discipline is called Bodily Control. He uses a regimen of three-times daily yoga-like poses to focus his mental energy, which allows him to perform seemingly impossible physical feats like harden his skin to ward off blows, leap great distances, and eventually heal himself or others. As the series progresses, he learns to conserve his power, so each feat takes less out of him, and he recovers more quickly, in a way inspired by meditation. It involves silent concentration and poses, becoming aware of the body’s energy and bringing it to the center of his mind. In yoga and meditation, the idea of centering is essential, and my own practice has led me to think of magic in a similar way.  

Ujenn, the Maer sorceress in the trilogy, has powers of empathy, language, and communication, as well as a little fertility magic she uses in the mystical surrogacy in The Archive. The essence of her power is the ability to feel what others feel, through a combination of touch, ancient spells, and herbal concoctions. Perhaps the most interesting are the ancient copper circles she uses to communicate with Carl over great distances. This magic requires intense concentration, and though the connection is imperfect, they are able to communicate simple but important details over hundreds of miles.  

In the Weirdwater Confluence, which will be independent of the trilogy but with some underlying connections, followers of the Endulian tradition use meditation and mindfulness-based practices to enhance their awareness of their bodies, their minds, and the minds of those around them. It allows them to share each other’s thoughts and feelings, usually in combination with alchemical tinctures, though there are some whose power is great enough they do not require tinctures. The Living Waters includes a number of scenes of such mind-sharing, which leads to some very interesting discoveries between characters and factors into an unusual romance subplot.  

Copper circles similar to the ones in the trilogy are seen in The Isle of a Thousand Worlds as elements of the mystical social media-like platform known as the Caravan, which allows communication over great distances. It requires extensive meditation training, specially designed ‘cradles,’ and highly refined alchemical tinctures, and the book features an alchemist MC whose search for the Universal Tincture may turn the entire system on its head.  

The copper circles themselves are all ancient, and the planned Time Before trilogy will take readers into the distant past, 2,000 years before, when the magical tech they represent was at its apogee. I can’t say too much about that, as it’s not even written yet, but it will involve the origins not only of the circles themselves, but also the philosophical traditions underlying the magic system described above. Finn’s bodily control magic, Ujenn’s communication powers, the Endulian meditation practice, and the Caravan all have their origins in the events of the Time Before, which is planned for release from Shadow Spark Publishing in 2023. 

  The Maer Cycle trilogy is available now in various formats at https://shadowsparkpub.com/dan-fitzgerald. The The Living Waters (October 15) and The Isle of a Thousand Worlds (January 15 2022) will be available via the same link. You can read more about my books at www.danfitzwrites.com

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

About the author:

Dan Fitzgerald is the fantasy author of the Maer Cycle trilogy (character-driven low-magic fantasy) and the upcoming Weirdwater Confluence duology (sword-free fantasy with unusual love stories). He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When not writing he might be found doing yoga, gardening, cooking, or listening to French music. 

Buy my books in any format: Dan Fitzgerald — Shadow Spark Publishing 

Twitter: Dan Fitzgerald (@DanFitzWrites) / Twitter (writing and bookish stuff—this is my home)

Instagram: Dan Fitzgerald (@danfitzwrites) • Instagram photos and videos (nature photography and bookish posts—this is my playground)Website: Dan Fitzgerald (danfitzwrites.com) (Find out more about my books, plus there’s a blog, and some bookish extras like maps, art, short stories, etc)

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time

This week is magic week on my blog! That means discussion about all the wonderful sorts of magic that is found in fantasy. I think that, if I were to skip Wheel of Time, I would have to turn in my Fantasy Lover card. However, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve read WoT and I am not known for having an excellent memory. Luckily, Rob Edwards, author and youtuber, has lent his expertise. As he points out, there is an upcoming TV show. If you’re a book hipster who likes to read the book before the adaptation, you might want to hop on it! You can also hear Rob Edwards’ thoughts on WoT on Youtube.

Rob Edwards:

The Wheel of Time turns…

And what turns it is magic. Or, more specifically, the True Source and its male and female halves, saidin and saidar. Every aspect of the world Robert Jordan created is predicated on this fact. The existence of people who can channel, men who can use saidin, and women who can use saidar, touches almost every aspect of the world.

I want to be particularly careful of spoilers, as Amazon’s television version of Wheel of Time is getting closer, and this story is (hopefully) going to find a brand-new audience. On balance, I think I’m safe to spoil things that happen in the prologue of book 1 of this 14-book behemoth.

The male half of the One Power, saidin, is tainted by the Dark One and male channelers are doomed to insanity as a result. One of the earliest victims of this (at least on this turning of the Wheel) is Lews Therin Telamon, who slays his friends and family, and releases so much power he reshapes the very geography of the world. Ever looked at the map of the Wheel of Time and thought it looked a bit weird? Blame Lews Therin’s madness and saidin.

The fact that only women can safely touch the One Power makes their order, the Aes Sedai, a power in the world. I’m not going to attempt to argue sexism isn’t a thing in the Wheel of Time, it is, but there are women in positions of influence in most cultures of the world. The story starts in the Two Rivers, a village so provincial they don’t even realise what country they are in, but they have heard of Aes Sedai. They don’t trust them, but they have heard of them.

But I wanted to talk about the magic system. What do we know about how the One Power works?

Quite a lot, in fact. Over the course of almost 4.5 million words of fantasy epic, we spend a fair amount of time with women, and men, who can channel. We watch them learn, and come to understand their methods and risks.

To access the power, women must surrender to saidar, being careful not to be consumed by the desire to draw too much power, or risk burning themselves out. Men channelling saidin, don’t talk about it as a surrender, their use of the power is more combative, and while the desire to draw too much power is there for them too, it is set against the oily poisonous feel of the Dark One’s taint.

The one power is used to create weaves from earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Women are typically strongest with weaves of air and water, men with earth and fire. These weaves can be used for all sorts of purposes from fireballs to Healing, from influencing the weather to influencing people. 

Over the course of the series, we learn so much more about the intricacies of use of the power. We learn the circumstances in which a channeler can (or cannot) detect other channelers’ weaves. Inevitably, we learn what happens when two channelers come into conflict.

Really, I’m trying to be vaguely specific here to avoid spoilers!

The way that channelers can come together to create greater effects are explored, including noting that in earlier Ages, it was only by linking men and women in the same circle that the true wonders of bygone Ages were achieved. To keep me on brand, there’s a table in the old Wheel of Time RPG which shows how many men and women are needed for what size Circle. This table is not something invented for the game, it’s all in the books, though admittedly not in table form.

I’m barely skating across the surface here. I’ve not mentioned the differences and significances of power-infused items like angreal, ter’angreal and sa’angreal. That new weaves are created, or old ones rediscovered. Each with implications that are explored in the…

Burn me, there’s a lot. I guess that’s part of why this series is so long.

Still, if you’re looking for a fantasy series which really explores its magic system and its implications. If you want to get into the crunchy, almost scientific minutiae, Robert Jordan’s work is astonishingly detailed. It’s not a series for everyone, it has its problems, and some of the books are… not as good as the others… But light blind me for a wool-headed sheep herder, I love this series, and if you’re into this kind of thing, you might too.

Or wait for the TV show.

About the author:

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and content creator, living in Finland. His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings from his short stories and extracts from longer work. He writes about coffee, despite not drinking it, spaceships, despite being down-to-earth, and superheroes, despite everything.

His debut novel, The Ascension Machine was published in 2020. His short stories can be found in anthologies from Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press.

A life-long gamer and self-professed geek, he is proud of his entry on wookieepedia, the result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios in his youth.

Links

Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/StorycastRob
Check out his Podcast: Storycast Rob
Or YouTube: Rob Edwards

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- 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- The Coldfire Trilogy

When I think of interesting magic systems, the Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman comes to mind. This never ceases to amuse me, since this is one of the few series I’ve read that seems to truly float freely between the fantasy and sci-fi genre (seeing the two genres smushed indiscriminately together as one is a pet peeve of mine), weaving the best from both genres into something alien and fantastical.

Even though it’s been a while since I’ve reread the series, it’s one that stands out to me because of the creativity in the author’s use of magic. Well, that, and the character of Gerald Tarrant, who is both terrifying and fascinating in pretty equal measure.

The magic in the Coldfire trilogy stands out to me because of its origin. It’s an innate force in the world. The story itself takes place on Erna, a planet that was colonized by humans over a thousand years before the events in the book. Erna is covered by a sort of energy known as the Fae. This energy interacts with humans in ways that were unexpected: it gives life to dreams, and form to nightmares. These nightmares aren’t just illusion, though: they can cause pain and even kill.

The Fae sort of works against humanity in the way that humans are affected. However, there are some who can work with the Fae and mold it, so to speak. What I find interesting about magic in this world is that it isn’t necessarily anathema to those of religion, but it gives the characters a way to explore their faith, their morality and, ultimately, their very humanity. The magic- or natural force- in the Coldfire trilogy is what stirs the plot and gives the characters their motivation.

C.S. Friedman obviously put a lot of thought into how her magic works. There are multiple types of Fae, each with its own slight differences. There is Tide Fae, its power ebbing and flowing with the tides. It is mainly used by a race known as the rakh. Then, there’s Earth Fae, which is what is mainly used by sorcerers and adepts. Solar Fae is the third kind of Fae. This is too powerful to really be used, although a group of church adepts used it to create powerful weapons at one point. Finally, there’s the Dark Fae. Used only by the Hunter (which I will not spoil here), it is only matched in power by the Solar Fae. I personally think the Dark Fae is most interesting because of the way it can be used. It’s a bit grim and utterly fascinating. It is basically a reflection of the worst in humanity and it is incredibly powerful.

The Fae in the Coldfire trilogy is really nothing like the fae of mythology other than in the wild, untamed quality it has. I love how everything in the world is affected by it in some way.

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- Magic in the Copper Circle

About the Blogger:

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub: Jodie is the creator of the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub blog and a contributor to Grimdark Magazine. She either lives in Florida with her husband and sons, or in a fantasy book-she’ll never tell which. When she’s not reading, Jodie balances her time between homeschooling her hooligans, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and lamenting her inability to pronounce “lozenge”.

Find her online at :
Blog: https://wittyandsarcasticbookclub.home.blog/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WS_BOOKCLUB

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic

Banner Credit: Sue Bavey

I’m so excited to spend a week discussing magic in fantasy books! A creative and epic magic system is always a huge draw to me when it comes to fantasy. While some magic isn’t necessarily fully explained, (which is absolutely fine) other novels have unique and complex systems. This week is going to explore some of those books.

Due to either time constraints or inexperience with a specific book (I haven’t read every fantasy that’s ever been written, to my obvious consternation), there will of course be holes in this series. There will be books that maybe aren’t discussed that you feel ought to be. Please mention them in the comments: I’m a glutton for punishment and love seeing my already-teetering tbr list grow ever longer.

Fortunately for me, there will be far far less holes because both bookbloggers and authors have offered to give their time and talents to this little project! There will be more books mentioned and explained by bloggers, as well as some amazing introductions to unique magic systems by their authors. Stay tuned because this week is going to be great!

To start things off, author M.D. Presley has an excellent breakdown of different kinds of magic that can be found in fantasy novels. Among other books, M.S. Presley is the author of Worldbuilding for Fantasy Fans and Authors, a guide on fantasy worldbuilding. Enjoy!


M.D. Presely: Magic systems are a lot like worldbuilding in that we frequently discuss what we like about them, but we don’t have a shared understanding as to what makes a good magic system. Brandon Sanderson has laid the foundation with his three (secretly four) laws of magic, but few outside of serious worldbuilders can quote them beyond the first, which differentiates between hard and soft magic systems. So then, what makes a great magic system?

The short answer: The right kind of magic for the story you’re trying to tell. 

Like worldbuilding, magic systems run the gamut for the highly mysterious soft systems to hard ones exacting enough to make computer programmers blanch, whereas most reside somewhere in the middle. However, while working on my upcoming Fantasy Worldbuilding Workbook, I noticed there’s a progression of magic systems. And these four types just so happen to align with Sanderson’s laws of magic as well as the Four Cs of Worldbuilding. Each of these types builds off of the ones that came before, such that Point Systems include all the facets of Soft Systems, while Level Systems include the aspects of Point and Soft, and Cost Systems include them all. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the A.A.L.C. system:

Appearance: Soft Systems

Soft systems focus mostly on what the magic looks like in the story and serve to either make the world more fantastical, make the villains more powerful (and the heroes greater underdogs), or attach to the protagonists in such a way that they must overcome the mysterious magic through a character arc. Because of Sanderson’s first law, these soft magics cannot step in to solve the main conflict of the story without feeling like dues ex machina. So they make the world more awesome in the fact they inspire awe, which is Sanderson’s secret fourth law as well as the C of Compelling. 

Abilities: Point Systems

Point systems follow the classic video game model with a certain amount of fuel (mana) that can be exchanged for varying abilities, with the understanding that the fuel is finite and the characters must make choices as to which abilities to use. And when the fuel is overtly referenced like in video games, this is the hardest of magic systems and can solve the main conflicts since the audience understands the rules (Sanderson’s first law). However, most stories only make oblique reference to how drained the characters are after using their powers, which softens the system considerably. Because the mana levels are not overt, it still feels like dues ex machina when the exhausted heroes find their hidden reserve in the finale. But Point Systems can employ a cost when dramatically necessary to make it more satisfactory. Because the powers are worked out ahead of time, this maps to the C of Consistent.

Limits: Level Systems

Sanderson’s second law states that Limitations > Powers since audiences want to see how characters creatively use their limited abilities rather than gaining godlike powers. As such, leveling systems have clearly defined parameters of what the characters can and cannot do at each stage of their development. Without the need for a point system, the characters have unlimited use of their powers established within their levels, which includes Airbender, Harry Potter, and the Jedi in Star Wars. Because they have unlimited uses of their abilities, characters in level systems usually face down villains of a higher level, and have to come up with clever uses of their lesser, limited abilities to overcome them, thus demonstrated the C of Creativity.

Cost: Cost Systems

The best things in life may be free, but everything else has a cost; so it makes sense that magic would too. And authors have unconsciously been using cost systems for centuries to make magical effects feel earned. In so doing, the magic suddenly has implications, which forces choices and dilemma among the characters. Cost systems create drama because the characters know they must either give up time, valuable materials, their health, sanity, or even life, to use their magic. Cost systems can either be overt from the onset, or can (and often are) tacked on to Soft, Point, or Level Systems when dramatically necessary, meaning that systems can move up the hardness scale at will (although it’s ill-advised to ever go the other way). Cost systems map to Sanderson’s third law in that they extrapolate further on the magic, which in turn makes the magic more Complete. 

These four types then break into 13 different subtypes, with more than one showing up in some of the most popular systems like Harry Potter and Airbender. In fact, the Force in Star Wars has been a Soft, Point, Level, and Cost System depending on who is writing it over the years. Which should demonstrate all the effort that goes into making an inspired magic system and the importance of finding the one that works best for you. 

About the author:

Never passing up the opportunity to speak about himself in the third person, M.D. Presley is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Born and raised in Texas, he spent several years on the East Coast and now waits for the West Coast to shake him loose. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

Where to find M.D. Presley: https://www.mdpresley.com/


For more posts in 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 in the Copper Circle
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