From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld

I had a hair-brained idea for my blog: a discussion on magic in fantasy! Not just in one fantasy book, but across the broad spectrum that is my favorite genre. Of course, there is absolutely no way I could do something like that justice, so I put a call out for bookbloggers and authors to lend their unique perspectives. They have shown up in a huge way to kindly share their time and opinions.

Author and Youtuber Rob Edwards sharing his thoughts on a big addition to fantasy: Discworld. You can hear his discussion on YouTube.

Rob Edwards:

Look, there in the dark. 

That shape.

It’s hard to judge size when the only comparison available is an endless stretch of inky dark nothingness, but the shape is huge. Beyond huge. Huge, and moving. Huge, moving and, on reflection, not just one shape, but a compound, complex set of shapes. Flippers. An impossibly vast shell. And standing on that shell, four elephants. Perched on their backs, it can only be…

Shape, then, is the wrong word. This has every appearance of being a place; more geography than geometry.

And this is a place steeped with magic. The sort of place the word “steeped” was made for. A place left to soak in an octarine infusion, like a tea bag left in a cup so long it… 

This metaphor is getting away from me.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is quintessential gateway fantasy. It is a place of wonder, a place of life, of humour, sharp satire, beguiling stories, larger than life characters and a whole lot of magic. Both in the world, and the way it is described.

And yet, while there are multiple volumes about the Science of Discworld, if there is such a treatise on the magic of the Disc, I’ve not encountered it.

So, what then can I divine about the Discworld’s magic system? This is my interpretation based on many rereadings of the series, but only recent revisits of Eric and Reaper Man. 

Three fundamentals drive all magic in Discworld: Purpose, Personality and Belief.

Magic wants to be used. We see it time and again across the series, from the single spell that Rincewind learned, to the magic of Moving Pictures and the mysterious globes in Reaper Man. Magic once manifested, needs to fulfil its purpose. 

It is something that the Wizards and Witches appreciate. The more senior the Witch or Wizard, the more power they have access to, the less likely they are to use it. You don’t claw your way up the hierarchy of the Unseen University without learning a healthy sense of self preservation, and an appreciation that wotting things man was not meant to wot of, is just not the done thing. Much better to have a big dinner and then a long nap instead.

Which is not to say that Witches and Wizards are fakers incapable of magic. There are plenty of examples in the books where both engage in activities which can only be described as magical. But there is always a risk in the act, the chance that the Wizard or Witch might get carried away. Sometimes literally. The Dungeon Dimensions and the terrible horrors which live therein are always waiting to take advantage of the unwary. We see several times in the series what happens when magic is unleashed too freely. Calamity and Chaos are never far away.

With purpose, oftentimes, personality follows. 

Death is the prime example of this. He is an embodiment of the most fundamental aspect of life, he has purpose to which he must attend, but more he has, he is, a personality. One of Sir Terry’s greatest creations, in fact, and one of the most beloved characters in the franchise. Which is weird when you think about it. He’s not the only example, though. The Hogfather, the Tooth Fairy all fill similar roles. And it’s not just the anthropomorphic aspects of reality that end up with personality. Almost anything infused with magic develops personality eventually, like Rincewind’s Luggage.

The final pillar of magic in Discworld is belief. Most obvious in the case of the Disc’s pantheon of gods, large and small, sometimes all that is needed to manifest something magical is enough belief. Pratchett lays it out specifically: the existence of gods does not result in belief in them, belief in gods results in their existence. Again though, the use of belief in magic is not limited to the gods. If you come in the door marked wossnames, that means you get treated as a wossname, right?

At the end of the day, Discworld is not the sort of series to have a regimented magic system. Instead, it’s a tool that Pratchett uses to fill a need in the story, a useful tool that can fit many shapes. Still, if the specifics of magic are malleable, I think it’s clear that the principles that underpin it are consistent.

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: http://storycastrob.co.uk/

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- 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- Teaching Physics to Barbarians

During this weeklong discussion on magic in fantasy, we’ll be talking about the truly fantastical magic system. But there are also magic systems that I like to think of as “reality-adjacent”, ones that have a basis in the scientific. After all, things that seem completely normal to us now would seem completely inexplicable and magical to people from, say, the 1400s.

The magic in The Wolf in the Blood fantasy series by author David McLean falls into the second category. I’m happy to be able to get a close look at how “realistic” magic operates in his books.

David McLean:

Teaching physics to barbarians – magic in a really real world

How real is your magical world? If it’s wholly fantastic, great! Magic can just exist. It’s not necessary to look behind the curtain. It can just be so, and you can write about how it’s used, not why it works.

But if your world intersects with the modern, real* world, I think you have to keep it real. 

I write ultra-naturalistic fantasy – a world recognisably our own, working in the same way, but with magic and monsters. This is not a novel idea. But for magic and monsters to exist in a really real world and not be rendered hopelessly implausible by physics, you have to think through how the universe works on a fundamental level. This is great fun. 

I’m not a physicist, and I didn’t fancy writing a textbook on if-magic-was-real physics. So I came up with some basic rules to apply in my books.

Let’s science! 

It’s consistent with general relativity. For it to be otherwise is universe-breaking. In my world, magic appears to be a fundamental interaction, like electromagnetism. It’s the force which changes other forces. If this sounds unlikely, bear in mind scientists discovered a new fundamental force just this year (probably). Magic has time translation symmetry (it always works the same way) obeys conservation of energy (you can’t create it or destroy it, only transform it) and is subject to entropy (actions have irreversible consequences). It affects thermodynamics (fireballs), evolutionary biology (dragons), gravity (massive flying dragons) and spacetime (wormholes and time travel). 

Everyone knows. You can’t casually slide fantasy into the gaps of the real world like a dudebro into your DM’s and expect no one will notice. How do you hide how the universe works? Humans understand physics at a deep level which far surpasses the ‘mystic scrolls of wisdom tropes of fantasy (I am not putting down mystic scrolls – you do you, scrolls). Even in a hellish dystopia where magicians are routinely wiping minds on a planetary scale, all it takes to know is looking and everyone can. The logical contortions are too great to sustain that narrative in a really real world. I do feel that if magic was real, Richard Feynman would have written an amusing book on the subject. So no need for secret wizard school, Harry. 

It’s weird and unsettling. The universe is strange, man. However strange your magic system is, quantum mechanics has it beat. Science grapples with the deep profundities of existence, including ethical and moral questions about free will and agency as inferred from physical laws. I’ve applied these to my world. So magic is a force, but it may also be sort of sentient and vaguely malevolent, with limited agency and unknowable desires. Using magic is profoundly invasive. It never helps. It only hurts.  

It’s accessible (but dangerous). Anyone can use gravity. Jump up and down – you are a puissant gravity user. But defying gravity is hard (song lyrics have misreported this). So it is with magic. In the in-world olden days, magicians of towering supremacy tried to bend it to their unconquerable wills, and sometimes succeeded but often failed. But so could anyone. The consequence of failure is pain – it consumes their energy and scars them with a biting rust. People understand it according to their lights – I set my third novel in 51 BCE. It features a Roman legionary, an Irish druid, and a Sri Lankan princeling. None of them could know about relativity or quantum anything. Consequently, they treat magic as, well, just that. And that’s fine. You don’t need to teach physics to your barbarian, after all. But even modern people will have different views. Magic? It’s all a conspiracy, my dude. It said so on The Magic Channel, it must be true… 

About the author:

David McLean is the author of three books – THE WOLF IN THE BLOOD (2018), THE WOLF CURE AND OTHER STORIES (2019), and THE NINE WIVES OF RANDAL RHIN (2020), published by Swordsaint Press in the UK. You can buy them on Amazon and read free chapters and stories on his website. His next book, FOX SILVER, will be out in early 2022. Follow @SwordsaintPress on Twitter.

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- 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- 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: 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

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (translated by Andrew Bromfield)

Set in modern day Moscow, Night Watch is a world as elaborate and imaginative as Tolkien or the best Asimov. Living among us are the “Others,” an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme “Other” will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?
An extraordinary translation from the Russian by noted translator Andrew Bromfield, this first English language edition of Night Watch is a chilling, engrossing read certain to reward those waiting in anticipation of its arrival. (taken from Amazon)

The thing about Night Watch is it’s cool, but it’s also a bit problematic. I am still sorting out whether I think the cool factor is enough that I can forget some of the parts that I had issue with. Basically, this review is going to be a rambling mess. So, let me roll up my sleeves and get right to it!

The premise of the book starts with a familiar concept – that of the otherworldly surrounding the everyday- and takes it in a new and creative direction. Anton is a low-level Light magician (meaning he’s one of the “good guys”), talented but not amazingly so. He is also a member of the Night Watch, a group of Others -such as magicians and shape changers- who keeps an eye on the other side (the “bad guys”-cue the menacing music). The other side, the Day Watch keeps an eye on the “good guys” as well. Both sides do this to make sure that everyone is adhering to the uneasy truce that has existed between those of the Light and those of the Dark for ages. Sounds pretty similar to many other books so far, right? From there it goes in an entirely different direction.

In the world of Night Watch, there are humans without a trace of the otherworldly, there are those on the side of light, those on the side of the dark, and potentials. Potentials are “Others” that have not chosen a side. Usually they are newly discovering their powers, but there are also rogues, etc. and sometimes they require the intervention of the Day Watch or the Night Watch. There’s an assumption that the two watches grudgingly work together, but that is only true on the surface. Their quiet war has become one of subterfuge and manipulation, and Anton finds himself squarely in the middle of it.

The pacing is very different than what I expect from a book of this nature, but it works. There is a lot of introspection and musing on the nature of “good” and “evil” and the sometimes blurry way they can be viewed. When does doing something good cause more evil? When is it acceptable to do nothing? Does the long game justify sacrifices along the way? These are questions that plague Anton, making for an interesting main character. While the world is engaging and the tricks and twists along the way are truly fascinating, it is this part of Anton’s character that makes Night Watch truly unique.

So, what did I find problematic? Some of the things the author said when referring to women, people of other nationalities, and lesbians were a bit on the offensive side. It was never quite enough to make me want to stop reading the book, but it did rankle at me. On the one hand, Night Watch was written several years ago, which could very well contribute to certain viewpoints, so it is something I tried not to focus on too much. However, it did bother me.

The creativity in the storytelling and the pondering of choices elevated this book above some of the others of this type that I’ve read. This is a reread for me, although it’s been at least fifteen years since my first time reading it. I think I enjoyed it more then than I do now, but Night Watch is still an enjoyable book, and one worth reading.

The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost Book #1) by C.L. Clark

On the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire, two women–a princess and a soldier–will haggle over the price of a nation in this richly imagined, breath-taking sapphic epic fantasy filled with rebellion, espionage, and assassinations.
 

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.
 
Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.
 
Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Orbit books and Netgalley for providing me with The Unbroken in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

This is going to be a tough one for me to talk about. While I really appreciated certain aspects of The Unbroken, I ultimately didn’t love it as much as I was hoping. The hype for this book was high, which probably unfairly raised my expectations.

Touraine is a soldier in the army of Balladaire (The “Sands” army). She didn’t sign up for the job; rather, she was forced in as a child. These child armies are raised with the teachings that their fight is a noble one and all violence will ultimately be justified. It’s really hard to think about because there are really situations of this happening in the real world. This added an extra weight to the situation that both intrigued and saddened me.

Luca is a princess of Balladaire. She ends up going to try to stop a rebellion and prove to her uncle, the regent, that she is worthy of ruling Balladaire. Like many power grubbers, her uncle is reluctant to relinquish any control. Touraine and Luca become intertwined when an assassination attempt on Luca’s life is stopped by Touraine, leaving Luca in her debt, so to speak. There’s more to the “how it got there”, but Touraine ends up being Luca’s spy/representative.

The Unbroken is a political fantasy, a slower-burn that shows the ramifications of decisions on every side. This sort of book requires commitment from the reader, simply because there is so much to pay attention to. The setup was a fascinating one, exploring themes of colonialism and how it affects everyone involved. It is not the sort of story I’ve really ever seen in fantasy before.

I struggled to pay attention during the first bit of The Unbroken, to be honest. I disliked both the main characters, which made it tough. I mean, I really disliked them. I think that was intended by the author. If so, consider the mission accomplished. I don’t mind disliking characters at all. I don’t need to “connect” to a character to enjoy reading them. My problem was that the characters often made decisions that seemed very much the opposite of what they would do based on what the author has told the reader about them. It made it very difficult to understand who these characters are on a fundamental level.

The pacing seemed a little off from time to time. However, while I had a hard time becoming invested at the beginning of the book, the second part picked up and became much more interesting. The Unbroken made me think. It kept me guessing. It showed me the ugliness that often shows up if a person so much as scrapes the surface of a situation. This wasn’t what I would call a “comfortable” book, but I definitely think it is absorbing.

The Cursed Titans (Tempest Blades Book 2) by Ricardo Victoria

The triennial Chivalry Games have returned! After helping to destroy the Withered King, Alex and the rest of the group find out that saving the world has consequences. While he is secretly battling with depression and with the Alliance on the verge of collapse, a diplomatic summit and the Chivalry Games—to be held in the far off Kuni Empire—may give everyone the opportunity to turn things around. Alex builds a team to represent the Foundation in the Games, facing off against the best fighters in the world. When an ancient being tries to raise legendary nightmares known as Titans using the peace talks as a trap, Alex has to find a way to save everyone before it is too late. Alex must learn that he is not truly alone to save the world from the chaos of the Titans. In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on July 20th.

The Cursed Titans is book two of the Tempest Blades series. I will do my best to avoid major spoilers for book one, but there might be one or two. You can find my review for book one (The Withered King) here.

One thing that I really enjoyed about book one was the subtle themes of redemption, and the ability to have that second chance that was included in an otherwise action-packed story. The Cursed Titans managed to again bring a deeper meaning into an action-packed storyline. In this case, it was mental illness.

It is difficult to find respectful depictions of mental illness in fiction, even more difficult to find it in the fantasy genre. Every time I see an author who uses mental illness as more than a prop in a story, I am incredibly impressed. Author Ricardo Victoria masterfully wove a story of depression, hope, and redemption in with a world filled with villains and magic.

Gaby was my favorite character in The Withered King. She was pretty high on the kick-butt-o’meter. However, it was Alex who stole the show in this book. I could identify a little bit with his battle with depression, although the way it is portrayed in The Cursed Titans is infinitely more creative and interesting than my depression happens to be. He had quite a bit of character growth, which I always appreciate.

Of course, this theme of mental illness was set against a unique backdrop, which had a bit of a My Hero Academia feel to it. I don’t know why that jumps to mind for me, but it does. I happen to love My Hero Academia, so I was jazzed about that. Combine that with the epic video game vibe that carried over from book one, and The Cursed Titans was a win for me.

I was very impressed at the way the author balanced a fast-paced fantasy book with what feels like a deeply personal exploration of depression, its effects, and what it truly means to overcome. The Cursed Titans was very well done.

Dragonlance Week: Character Profiles- Fizban, Pyrite, Goldmoon, and Riverwind

Throughout a weeklong celebration of Dragonlance, there will be profiles for some of the important characters in the Chronicles, which is the original trilogy, and the books that started it all. So far we’ve discussed Tanis, Laurana, and Stum, Caramon and Raistlin, and Tasselhoff Burfoot, Flint Fireforge and Tika. We’ll finish off our introductions with Fizban, Pyrite, Goldmoon, and Riverwind.

Image credit: Larry Elmore

Fizban:

Lovable old fool, or something far more important? There is definitely more than meets the eye to this character. Ostensibly an aging, absent-minded mage who can never seem to remember the words to his favourite Fireball spell, and is seen at the side of the road arguing with a tree, he is something of a figure of fun. Constantly losing his hat and never remembering his name, Fizban’s relationship with young kender, Tasselhoff Burfoot, is particularly endearing and at times hilarious. He immediately reminded me of Tolkien’s Gandalf in the early stages of The Fellowship of the Ring, a kind of mentor character, who appeared to be just too aged and befuddled to really have any power or significance. What a great way to stay unremarkable and underestimated if you didn’t want people to pay much attention to you. Fizban appears exactly when needed, and haphazardly affects the events all around him, ultimately for the better, although at the time it always feels like he has caused a calamity. In fact events surrounding Fizban always appear to be a little out of control, but without giving away the major spoiler about Fizban, I think I can safely say that there is method in his madness!
-Sue Bavey

More books featuring Fizban:

He shows up here and there. The rest the reader will have to discover on their own.

Image credit: Jeffrey Butler

Pyrite:

Pyrite is introduced to us in Dragons of Spring Dawning, when we are told that an old man and an aged golden dragon are happily napping in the middle of the Plains of Estwilde, apparently oblivious while dragon armies go about their business nearby. He is the longest living golden dragon and swore to Paladine that he would protect Huma back in the days of the Third Dragon War, back when he was a fierce warrior. He has long forgotten his actual name, but Pyrite is what the younger dragons affectionately call him. Pyrite, the mineral is often known as ‘Fool’s Gold’ and since Pyrite the dragon is a golden dragon and accompanies doddery old Fizban, this is a clever name for him.

By the time we meet Pyrite in Dragons of Spring Dawning he is a forgetful, almost toothless, but brave old thing, still thinking that he is in a battle protecting Huma. He mostly lives on oatmeal these days, due to his lack of teeth, he is deaf and his vision is dimming, but he remains intelligent, when mentally present in the here and now. He seems to be a good match for his rider, Fizban. Fizban has to leave Pyrite and makes him into a tiny golden statue which Tasselhof Burfoot is then able to keep in one of his pouches and carry around quite easily, without anyone suspecting he has a dragon on his person!
-Sue Bavey



Image credit: Larry Elmore

Goldmoon:

Goldmoon is a difficult character to talk about. In some ways, she functions as a plot device at the beginning. She is the bearer of a mysterious staff that everyone and their brother is either after, or being accused of hiding. That being said, she ends up being far more, becoming an integral part of the group, as well as being responsible for finding out what happened to the gods of Krynn.

Goldmoon is smart, strong, and compassionate, the last being a trait that can be somewhat lacking in some of the other characters. It allows her to view things from a different perspective. I love seeing a female character that is strong without losing any emotions. While not being an early favorite of mine, I’ve come to appreciate her much more over the years.
-Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

More Books Featuring Goldmoon:

Dragons of a New Age trilogy by Jean Rabe

War of Souls trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Image Credit: Clyde Caldwell

Riverwind:

Riverwind is quiet, and he is stoic. He can be hard to get a handle on at first. Once he feels at ease with the group, though, you learn he’s someone that will always be there when needed. Not only that, he provides a window into this world. Things would not normally need explaining between a group of people who have known each other as long as the other companions have, but through Riverwind we learn a lot about how these characters tick. When Riverwind asks Tanis why he is called “half-elf” instead of “half-man” the reader gets a deeper look into Tanis’ psyche. This isn’t something anyone who has known Tanis would ask, so Riverwind adds much to the books just by being there.

We first meet Riverwind at the Inn of the Last Home (which I would love to visit, by the way). He travels with Goldmoon, the love of his life. Their relationship isn’t one I love, to be honest. He spends a good chunk of Dragons of Autumn Twilight being a bit of a jerk to her. Their relationship matures in subsequent books, however, which feels awfully similar to the way relationships can be.
-Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

More books featuring Riverwind:

Riverwind the Plainsman

The Magic of Krynn

About the Contributors:

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

Twitter: @SueBavey




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: @WS_BOOKCLUB