From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Invisible Library

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub is focusing on magic in fantasy novels all week. I have been fortunate to have guest authors and bookbloggers discussing the magic systems in books. It’s a broad subject and one that I find fascinating.

As all readers know, words have power. They can teach, evoke emotion, or even change a person’s perspective. Well, words have power in Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library in a more literal way. Today the Book Pyramid has joined the conversation to talk about magic in her excellent fantasy series.

The Book Pyramid:

Thank you Jodie for having me on your wonderful blog! There are so many intriguing and fascinating magic systems out there. When I start a new series, I am always hopeful that I will discover a new, interesting one, as it is one of the main elements of the Fantasy genre that really hooks me in for the ride. One of the most unique one I have discovered recently comes from the Invisible Library series, by Genevieve Cogman. In it, we are introduced to this inter-dimensional library that collects rare texts and books for parallel dimension versions of our world by sending their Librarians (really more like field agents) to retrieve their targets. These agents have been trained in many disciplines to survive the always different environments and threats of the many worlds they must travel to, but perhaps their most valuable skill is the power to use The Language.

The Language is the main magic system we are introduced to in The Invisible Library. I say “main” here as there are other forms of magic in the worlds our main character travels to, but the one at the centre of it all, the one being used by our protagonist, is The Language. Now what I thought was super interesting about The Language is that it has a set of very specific rules and boundaries. It cannot be used to summon elemental creatures or cast a fireball at your enemies, but instead it lets its users manipulate the world around them by talking to it, by issuing it commands. So while in some fantasy novels, magic users can be all-powerful gods who can wreck havoc on entire armies and lay waste to kingdoms with a flick of the wrist and an uttered word, our Librarian has to use her powers within the limits of what they can accomplish and that makes for some very compelling situations. 

That is not to say that The Language is not a versatile tool to have in your toolbox. Quite the contrary actually, as there are millions of ways you can interact with your environment and to make it do what you need to do. For example, you might speak The Language and say “Door, close and Lock!” If you are being pursued, but be careful, as every door that can “hear” your command will obey it. You might command Water to boil, museum figures to Come alive to help you out, or tell a gun to Jam and explode, but one who commands The Language always must be careful of using it in the exact way they need it to avoid what could be catastrophic consequences. 

While I am not one to look down on a good old fashion lightning bolt or healing spell, I found the intricacies of The Language to be very compelling. The fact that it allows its user to manipulate almost everything around them gives them an almost infinite array of tools to use in the right situation, while keeping the power level in check to maintain the sense that anything could go wrong at any time. An all powerful mage might be a very cool character, but they also might remove the sense of threat and danger that keep me invested in our character’s well being. I have read the first two book of this series and in each one the author finds new, unique ways for her heroine to use The Language to get herself out of all kinds of crazy predicaments. Magic systems are such an important part of the Fantasy genre and it always feels special when you find one you enjoy so much that you wish you were able to use it yourself. That is why I choose Genevieve Cogman’s The Language for this article. 

Maybe if I try…

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About the blogger:

Max is a career book seller and long time book reader and collector. His passion for books is only rivaled by his unease at writing about himself in the third person. 
When he is not out camping or playing board games with his family, he can usually be found sitting near a window, wrapped up in a blanket and reading a Fantasy or Mystery novel, with a glass of his latest single malt found and his three-legged cat Peggy nearby.
You can read more of his stuff here:

Follow him on Twitter at: @BookPyramid

For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic-Let’s Talk Mistborn