Top 5 Magic Systems #WyrdandWonder

Magic portal artwork by Tithi Luadthong

May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder. If you don’t know what it’s all about then why not pop over to Imryil’s blog to find out what’s happening. One of the things is Fantastic Fives, lists of Top 5’s throughout the month and the first one of these is Magic Systems.

I just love a good magic system. Most fantasy books that include magic don’t really have one though. More often than not, the wizard or mage is just able to do magic because they just have those powers. The power might need training but it is often something that is part of that character. It is nice though when an author comes up with something slightly different. The magic works in a certain way or through specific objects. You still get certain characters who are able to be mages or sorcerers but they might need a bit of help to access their powers or to enhance them. Here are 5 of my favourite magic systems.

The Magic of Recluse – L E Modesitt jnr

I just love all of Modesit’s magic systems but the best developed (mainly due to the sheer number of books in the series) has to be the magic in the Recluse saga. In the Recluse books, everything is made up of order and chaos and mages can either manipulate the atoms and bonds or order (black mages) or handle the chaos that results when those bonds are broken (white mages). One of the main ideas that runs through all of the books is that both order and chaos have to be balanced. If a country that uses one side of the balance such as the order based Island of Recluse becomes too powerful, then the balance will create greater chaos somewhere else.

Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson is another author who has created many magic systems but my favourite will always be the allomancy that is the system in the Mistborn books. Allomancy is the ability to gain powers by swallowing metal. There afre 16 different metals and each one confers a different ability on the user. Most people have the ability to only use one metal and are known as mistings. Some however, can use all 16 and they are The Mistborn.

The Mask of Mirrors by M A Carrick

The Rook and the Rose is one of my favourite current fantasy series and I’m eagerly waiting for the final volume to come out later this year. In this series, there are two separate magic systems. One is Numinatria which is a complex geometric system using the numbers 1-10 and geometric shapes. The other is more linked to fortune telling. Certain characters have decks of cards known as Pattern Decks (similar I think to tarot cards) and can use these to gain information about the past, present and future.

The Drowned Empire trilogy by Andrea Stewart

This is another brilliant fantasy series that has just been completed with the release of The Bone Shard War last month. Bone Shard magic is the ability to create creatures and power them using shards of bone that are taken from the citizens of the empire. The shards of bone have commands on them which allow the creatures to be controlled by their creator.

The Ash Princess trilogy by Laura Sebastian

This is a YA trilogy which I’ve only just read and I enjoyed the magic system in this one too which is based on the four elements of Air, Water, Earth and Fire. A character may have an affinity for one of these but their power can be enhanced immeasurably by wearing jewels that can only be mined in the country of Astrea. Those without powers can wear the jewels and will find the jewels enhance their beauty or other qualities but those with the power can bring down entire cities.

That’s 5 of my favourite magic systems although I could easily have chosen at least twice as many. Once you start thinking about it, it’s amazing how many different ways that authors have found for their characters to use magic.


Author: Janette

Recently retired Ex-Assistant Head of a large primary school in Leicestershire although I seem to be in school teaching quite a bit still.

17 thoughts on “Top 5 Magic Systems #WyrdandWonder”

  1. Great choices – all of them have such unique systems. And I definitely expected to see Sanderson in this list. He does cook up the most complex magical systems with loads of techniques and the science behind those.

  2. Carrick’s books have been on my TBR for a while simply because I kept seeing them everywhere. But your explanation of the magic system has me intrigued. And The Ash Princess trilogy has been on my list since I read the author’s adult debut, Half Sick of Shadows, which I absolutely loved. And have to give a thumbs up to Andrea Stewart’s The Drowning Empire trilogy…such a neat magic system. Great list, Janette!

  3. A math-based magic system, you say? 👀 I guess I’m reading The Rook and the Rose, then!!

    Allomancy is definitely also among my top five. Even years after first reading Mistborn, I find the whole metal concept utterly fascinating and would love to be able to weild magic like that! (And have a mist cloak because those are really cool, too… )

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