Magic. If you’re reading a fantasy, it’s more than likely got it. And it’s a science, not necessarily dictated by chemical balances (unless said magic system is alchemy), but most certainly limited by the reality imposed by the universe it is a part of.
There are a lot of fantasy books out there, and each one tries to set itself apart by employing a new take on the way magic works. Some are more original than others, but when executed properly, all have the potential to excuse a lot of other weaknesses in the narrative.
Of course, there is no way to mention all of them here (I wouldn’t even try!), but I will mention the top three that come to mind for me.
- The Dragon Nimbus series from Irene Radford. Easily one of my favorite magical systems used by a fantasy series. The rules (as I remember them) were concrete, and there were consequences for its use.
- The Cycle of Corwin from the Amber Chronicles, by Roger Zelazny. If you’ve been following my blog, you probably can’t believe it made it on this list––however, for all of its issues, I do think the magic system is incredibly complex and interesting.
- The Dragaera series by Steven Brust. I love that there is a separation between the types of magic used by the characters, and that their house also dictates their emotional fortitude.
An honorable mention, but only an honorable mention because it’s actually a TV show/comic book, would be Full Metal Alchemist. Don’t let the cartoon medium fool you. Full Metal Alchemist is one of the darker shows out there, and its magical system, while powerful, has horrible consequences for all of its inhabitants.
What are some of your favorite magical systems? Have there ever been any magical systems that ruined a book, or TV show, for you?