Tough Traveling: Magic Systems

3bfd8-toughtraveling The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in (and inspired by) The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information.

This week’s tour topic is: Magic Systems

A system.  For Magic.  Don’t pretend y’all were not waiting for this one.

Wendy’s Picks

Blood Magic, Dragon Age

Because how can I not include blood magic, the system by which the veil between the real word and the Fade is opened wider through the use of blood.

Blood Magic
The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix

“Seven bells are used by necromancers to summon and control the Dead. While many such bell-wielders will be Free Magic sorcerers, the most highly-accomplished wielders of the seven bells come from the Abhorsen family. They are always Charter Mages, and they use the bells to defeat the Dead and compel them to return into Death and pass beyond the Ninth Gate, from which there is no return.” [X]


Three Parts Dead

Three Parts Dead

The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone

In Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence series, black mages and necromancers wear pinstripe suits and your soul has far more value than you ever thought. Gods dream, love, and die, and magic swirls — though not everyone can use it. Learning the Craft takes training, determination, and a lot of hard work.

killing moonThe Dreamblood Duology by N.K. Jemisin

Narcomancy uses the power of dreams to heal or to bring eternal rest. Though the priests of the order are meant to use this gift only to bring peace to the dying, they are fully capable of using it to attack and defend. And when a rampant dreamer shares her powerful nightmare….

The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin

This is something we have never told mortals. Paper and ink are weak structures on which to build the framework of magic. Breath and sound aren’t much better, yet we godlings willingly confine ourselves to those methods because the mortal realm is such a fragile place. And because mortals are such dangerously fast learners.

But flesh makes for an excellent conduit

And then there’s, you know, everything by Brandon Sanderson…

 Tiara’s Picks:


MageAscensionMage: The Ascension by White Wolf Games

Let’s just revisit my old quote about this:

This is a tabletop role playing game with a book (of course) with a very interesting magical lore that says that everyone can shape reality and that the reality people believe in (that magic doesn’t exist) is a lie perpetuated by a group called the Technocratic Union, a group that’s convinced the world that only science exists. Even the magic itself is very varied from the unusual things such as science (but in a way that the TU hates), philosophy, technology, inspiration, information and religion along with more traditional magic to name a few.

FMA1Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

I can never say this enough about FMA. Science + Magic = EVERYTHING.


The Shadow of What WasThe Licanius Trilogy by James Islington

It has been twenty years since the end of the war. The dictatorial Augurs – once thought of almost as gods – were overthrown and wiped out during the conflict, their much-feared powers mysteriously failing them. Those who had ruled under them, men and women with a lesser ability known as the Gift, avoided the Augurs’ fate only by submitting themselves to the rebellion’s Four Tenets. A representation of these laws is now written into the flesh of any who use the Gift, forcing those so marked into absolute obedience.

As a student of the Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war fought – and lost – before he was born. Despised by most beyond the school walls, he and those around him are all but prisoners as they attempt to learn control of the Gift. Worse, as Davian struggles with his lessons, he knows that there is further to fall if he cannot pass his final tests.

But when Davian discovers he has the ability to wield the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything. To the north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir. And to the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…

The Hum and the ShiverThe Tufa Books By Alex Bledsoe

Such a creative endeavor by Alex Bledsoe that combines music and magic in such an amazing way.  I can’t praise this series enough, and it really starts to throw you for a loop as you learn what the the Tufa truly are as this goes from magical realism to mythology. Excellent series.

SpellwrightSpellwright by Blake Charlton

Nothing explains this better than the description. Because who can’t love a book where the magic relies on spelling and the main character is dyslexic? And they don’t treat it in a way that feels gross or showing ableism (but I can’t be the ultimate judge of that because I am not dyslexic):

Nicodemus is a young, gifted wizard with a problem. Magic in his world requires the caster to create spells by writing out the text… but he has always been dyslexic, and thus has trouble casting even the simplest of spells. And his misspells could prove dangerous, even deadly, should he make a mistake in an important incantation.

Yet he has always felt that he is destined to be something more than a failed wizard. When a powerful, ancient evil begins a campaign of murder and disruption, Nicodemus starts to have disturbing dreams that lead him to believe that his misspelling could be the result of a curse. But before he can discover the truth about himself, he is attacked by an evil which has already claimed the lives of fellow wizards and has cast suspicion on his mentor. He must flee for his own life if he’s to find the true villain.

But more is at stake than his abilities. For the evil that has awakened is a power so dread and vast that if unleashed it will destroy Nicodemus… and the world.

Mogsy’s Picks:

Looks like my co-bloggers have the epic fantasy handled this week! Which is good because things got pretty busy in the last couple days, but I just really wanted to chime in with a couple of my recent Urban Fantasy reads that I thought had the most awesome and mind-blowingly unique magic systems:

California BonesCalifornia Bones by Greg Van Eekhout

The magic system of osteomancy – wizards who ingest creature bones and other body parts to absorb their essence and gain their power — is as cool as it is disturbing. A chunk of sabertooth can grant great speed and agility, a bit of sint holo can give you the ability to turn invisible, some essence of firebird can allow the user to breathe flames, and so on. Where it gets really icky is when osteomancers start thinking about cannibalism and butchering other human beings to ingest the magic in their flesh and bones!

FlexFlex by Ferrett Steinmetz

Imagine wanting or believing in something so badly, you can actually make it happen. This is the idea behind ‘Mancy, the magic system in this world. Essentially, if you’re a ‘mancer, the power of your obsession will kick the laws of physics in the ass so hard that reality literally comes undone. This is what gives rise to the many different kinds of magic users. The possibilities are endless. Deathmetalmancers! Videogamemancers! Origamimancers! Fastfoodmancers! Catgifmancers!

18 Comments on “Tough Traveling: Magic Systems”

  1. Whoa… one of my favorite topics,
    Love your picks: Sanderson (naturally); Fullmetal Alchemist, Craft Sequence, osteomancy…
    I also love nen from HunterxHunter.
    I love Malazan magic (warrens and holds) but I am reluctant about calling it system since system implies organization and compared to rule-heavy magic systems there is a certain chaotic,unexpected aspect to it I totally dig. (Hi, Tiara! 😀 )
    Chromaturgy from Weeks’s Lightbringer is also an interesting concept…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Weeks’ Lightbringer was actually on my original list before I scrapped it to go full UF. It definitely is cool!

      And ahh, I should have chimed in with Sanderson’s Rithmatist, I thought that was even cooler than his Mistborn or Warbreaker, etc.


      • I understand. I am a fan…but it took me almost 2 books in to realize that. This is odd comparison, but my very first class in law school professor told us: “in order to pass this you should have already started studying” (classic intimidation tactics. 😉 ). Well, Erickson is kind of like that: it’s like he expects you to come into it with vast knowledge or, at least, tremendous patience. I struggled with GotM and to this day it’s my least favorite in series. Everything good and everything bad you heard about is true and all I can say from my experience is that it pays to stick with it.
        I don’t know if it’s something that would interest you, but my friend who started reading Malazan few months ago told me that on tor’s page they have Malazan Reread project. They cover every book by chapters and she says it was a huge help and it pushed her to continue when she had a hard time.


        • I think that’s an excellent comparison actually. I ended up with the first book via Audible along with the eBook. I’m still not sure how, but not unusual. It sounded like something I’d read for sure. Lots of people I know have praised the series, too. I gifted Wendy a copy of the Audible book, and she ended up listening to it while telling me she had no idea what was going on. I ended doing a search after that and learned just how massive this series is. I read forum posts and bookmarked a page with suggested reading orders if you planned to read books from only one of the authors or both. It was a lot of information. People were saying things like themes don’t start pulling together until later books, that they’re intentionally written not to give you the big picture at one time. I still have all this stuff bookmarked and look at it every time I look at the first book in my Audible library. I almost started it today after commenting here about it. I should probably just jump and see where it takes me. I need something that might shake things up to pull me out of my slump. It’s intriguing to read what people have to say about this series, and the conversations have to be some of the most detailed I’ve ever read for a series, but at the same time, wow…


  2. Sanderson’s Mistborn was possibly the best I’ve read. Loved that magic system.

    Mage: The Ascension was a game I played and ran many years ago. A very cool pick for this list.

    And naturally, I’ve added a few more things to my ever growing to read list.


    • I havs a friend who used play all these games. I didn’t play, but I enjoyed watching him and learning about the worlds. MtA was one of my favorites to watch and read about.


  3. Nice list, ladies! I haven’t read of the books you listed, but a few of them (Brandon Sanderson, N.K. Jemisin’s Dreamblood duology, Alex Bledsoe) are on my TBR list. 🙂

    As for my personal list of SFF stories with magic systems… If I started listing them all right now, I’d be here for a while. *lol*


  4. I’d never heard of the magic from the Blooddream Duology, but that is cool! And I’m expecting to see Sanderson on everyone’s list 😛

    I go back and forth on FMA between wether or not the alchemy is magic. It’s alchemy, and could be possible scientifically one day with technology, but it looks they perform it via magic in the manga. So yeah, it guess it is both Ha ha and it awesome! 😀

    Definitely Flex’ magic system. That one too, should be on a lot of people’s lists.

    Liked by 1 person

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