Wyrd & Wonder: Top 5 Magic Systems

Artwork by astromoali

As readers of fantasy, I think we’ve seen our fair share of magic systems during our reading career. They can be hard, rule-based magic systems, or the softer, more whimsical types of magic that don’t have a concrete set of rules. While I appreciate the floaty, fae-like magic in many books, my most loved by far are those with more detail and a more defined idea of what can and cannot be done. Here’s a few of my favorites.

  1. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson 
    1. Mages are aspected or aligned to a particular deity, sometimes multiple
    2. They are able to ‘fast travel’ through Warrens, which is sort of like a themed shortcut full of weird scenery and sometimes monsters or demons. Did I mention that the gods and goddesses reside in their Warrens?
    3. The mages are hella powerful – Quick Ben, Anomander Rake, Tayschrenn, and Kellanved are just a handful that come to mind and each could go toe-to-toe with the gods or become one themselves.
    4. There’s also the Deck of Dragons, which is essentially a tarot deck and each of the Houses has a suite of cards. The deck shifts as power balances shift and it’s also used as a tarot deck would be used.
  2. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
    1. Sympathy – the idea of creating a sympathetic link between two (or more) objects by splitting one’s mind and focusing.
    2. Very scientifically based and I appreciated the amount of thought put into how this world works.
    3. Different fields of study ranging from artifice, sygaldry, and alchemy to the more mundane fields of medicine, mathematics, and languages. A Master must be well-versed in all of these things!
    4. And then there’s Naming, which is what we think of more as ‘magic’. Learning the true name of a thing gives one absolutely power/mastery over it.
  3. Necromancy (in general)
    1. I’m always fascinating to see how an author makes use of power over the dead. Sometimes it’s the traditional raising of the undead to do one’s bidding, and other times it’s a bit more interesting.
    2. The Warden by Daniel M. Ford – the main character’s specialty is necromancy which does involve the raising of the dead, but she also uses her knowledge of the human body and magical senses to practice medicine as well. Her affinity also allows her to see at night by the light of a necromantically aligned moon.
    3. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsin Muir – Each of the different houses has a different specialty, ranging from speaking to the dead to stealing the spiritual energy from others.
    4. The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan – some of the Justices use necromancy to raise and question the dead. They can also travel to a spiritual plane full of truly eldritch horrors.
  4. In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan
    1. Glass magic – people can use ‘godglass’ to enhance anything from their hearing to their intelligence. Certain individuals called glassdancers are able to manipulate glass and can use it as a weapon and they are especially feared.
    2. There are people who specialize in designing and smithing the glass into particular shapes and functions called siliceers.
    3. The most fascinating part is how godglass is used in everyday life and the entire industry that surrounds the production and renewal of the coveted magical material.
  5. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
    1. The magic system called Scriving is comparable to coding.
    2. A person basically ‘convinces’ an object to act in a certain way – like telling bricks to stick together or telling a door to stay locked.
    3. In later books it gets deep into the whole ‘language of the universe/creation’ which was very cool and gives the series this mythic feeling – like you’re peering behind the veil and seeing what is truly making the world tick on and on.

11 thoughts on “Wyrd & Wonder: Top 5 Magic Systems

Add yours

  1. I love the list!! But I also feel like you could do it over with all Sanderson books 😂 But even more I love that you weren’t even tempted to include any!

    Liked by 1 person

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