Favorite Magic System

Three huge cheers for Friday. The weekend is almost here, and it’s time for a new addition to the Fantasy Favorites series. On stage today we have magic systems.

bolt of lightningThere are few things I love more in fantasy than a thorough, imaginative magic system. Done well, it’s as natural to the world as technology is to a sci-fi setting.

Some fantasy books don’t include magic, use it sparingly, or attach it to a single item—such as Susan’s horn from Narnia—instead of presenting a fully formed system of magic. Those books are fine, but to me, fantasy with magic takes the jump to another level of awesome.

When it comes to reading about magic systems, I’m like a superhero geek at comic con. Half the fun is discovering how magic is structured and dealt with in the new world I’ve entered. Good authors don’t lay everything out at once, but add details and explanations as the story progresses, which makes it equivalent to a huge treasure hunt.

My experience with fantasy isn’t as broad as it should be, but I can think of several amazing magic systems off the top of my head. If you’re a fantasy fan and enjoy cool, wild, bizarre, or straight-up awesome magic systems, be sure to check these out:

I’m personally fond of the magic in Mistborn and Stormlight, because Brandon Sanderson is genius incarnate. He has an imagination that takes his magic systems to mind-bending places and never fails to make me gape and shake my head in wonder.

I’d really rather not choose a winner. So many excellent choices. But because I have to, my favorite magic system comes from…The Wheel of Time series.

Wheel of Time Magic

I loved some things about Wheel of Time. I hated others. But when talking magic, Robert Jordan created a system that still resonates with me. Amid the vast reaches of his worldbuilding and the epic scope of his tale, the magic system, known as channeling, stands as a monument to the core of what makes me love a magic system.

There are a few other forms of magic, such as communicating with animals and entering a weird sort of dream world, but I’m going to stick with the main magic system.

1. Simplicity

On the surface, channeling is a complicated tangle of concepts thicker than the Amazon jungle. Dig a little deeper, however, and you find that the fuel powering the magic is simple. Five elements—wind, air, earth, water, and spirit—which channelers can manipulate to accomplish things.

The One Power is split into male and female halves, which can be channeled and turned into various weaves to create the desire result. Nothing extraordinary, but a solid foundation to build on.

2. Diversity

Though simple, channeling has many applications and uses. The elements touch every slice of reality, so it makes sense that the characters have a myriad of options—everything from heating water without fire to disguising appearance.

Another piece of the puzzle is the use of objects—everyday things like statues and pendants—to enhance a channeler’s power or enable them to do something they otherwise couldn’t.

3. Creativity

This is where channeling stands out to me, as do most other things I enjoy. Does it make me say “wow”? Does it stir my imagination and flip the switch on my creativity? If so, I’m engaged.

The beauty of channeling is that though it’s simple, it’s diverse enough that the creativity is unshackled to roam free. Want to make portals appear out of thin air, or blast balls of fire from your hands? Go for it, because at this party, the possibilities are nearly limitless.

As if that isn’t enough, there are consequences for the users. Men who channel go insane. Shocker, right? But also a clever twist that adds a personal dimension. The magic is no longer an inanimate system but becomes involved directly in the lives of the characters as something they need to struggle with.

I could go on for another half-hour, but you’re busy and I’m busy, so I’ll step through my magic portal and see you again soon. In the meantime, have some fun and dig into a new magic system. You never know what you’ll find.

Which magic system is your favorite? Are there any you didn’t like? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Favorite Magic System — 5 Comments

  1. I think my favorite is the bending abilities in Avatar: The Last Airbender! I understand it to be more of a physiological ability than a magical one, but I feel like it fits. I love all the different techniques and uses of bending, and the sheer creativity with which it permeates the world. It looks like so much fun, too!

    For magic systems I didn’t like… Well, as much as I ADORE Harry Potter, the magic system in that world seems rather broken to me. There are loads of fun and creative applications, but then other things somehow can’t be done with magic (like, why can’t Harry’s eyesight be healed with magic so he doesn’t have to wear glasses?). There are too many holes.

  2. Pingback: Favorite Magical Item | Zachary Totah

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