Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite Magic System


It is time for Thoughtful Thursday and the bookish questions that pop up while I am reading. Please share your thoughts on the bookish question of the week. I am curious to hear what you have to say! There are no wrong answers. Questions about Thoughtful Thursday or future Thoughtful Thursday posts? Check out my Thoughtful Thursday section. Alright, on to the question!

What is your favorite magic system?

My husband and I have been reading a lot of fantasy books lately, and these books have gotten us discussing our favorite magic systems. I, apparently, like magic systems that are difficult and require a lot of effort by the magic user. I must admit that if I had the choice to be a magic user, I would not choose either of these magic systems. :)

 The first magic system that always comes to mind is in Brandon Sanderson's The Arithmatist. In this world, chosen people can do spells with magic chalk. If they draw particular geometric shapes in just the right way, they can fend off chalklings (I think that is what they are called) and other villains. I love the idea of magic being very particular and that a person must take care when drawing their shapes (crooked lines will cause all sorts of problems). I like this magic system, because it takes a lot of careful effort by the magic user. Also, I think it is really cool that magic is linked up with geometry. 

The second magic system that always comes to mind when I think about favorite magic systems is the Skill in the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. The Skill can only be used by people with the gift. This magic gives you the opportunity to share thoughts and strength across long distances. Skill users can communicate or confuse enemies across hundreds of miles. Sometimes Skill users will attack other Skill users through their minds as well. Although this magic system might seem pretty banal, what I like about this system is that it wears the users out very quickly if abused. A lot of the time the Skill users in the books are wearing thin or passed out. FitzChivalry, the protagonist in the series, learns ways of managing the Skill over the course of the series; however, a take home message for this series is that magic has a price. There is another form of magic in this world called the Wit, but I find the Skill a bit more fascinating.

So now it is your turn! What is your favorite magic system? What makes this system your favorite? 

Please comment below or link up your post in the linky.
 

27 comments:

Christina (My Life in Books) said...
January 2, 2014 at 12:11 AM

I may be the first to say this put I won't be the last. I've always imaged spell casting as a repertoire of learned spells and/or movements, a la Harry Potter. As a very bookish and nerdy person myself, I enjoy the idea that powerful magic only comes from learning, then mastering, every spell created then inventing some of your own. Thus power essentially belongs to the intellectuals.

Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...
January 2, 2014 at 1:14 AM

I'd be lying if I said anything other than Harry Potter...I suppose I'm bias because it's my favorite series period, but I really like the simplicity of it. I like that while magic may be inherent it doesn't mean you'll automatically be powerful or get it right the first time, you have to learn and practice.
Though honestly I don't read a ton of books with magic systems sadly...I suppose I should fix that.

Lexxie Lin said...
January 2, 2014 at 5:19 AM

I love the magic in The Hollows series by Kim Harrison, there are different ways to wield magic, but there is skill as well as a sort of genetic notes that makes it so that a person can do magic. There are spells to learn by heart, and if a magic user wields black magic, there is darkness that is entered to his or her soul to counter the 'bad' use.

I also love Jim Butcher's the Dresden Files, because Harry is very good with magic, but sometimes, he screws up stuff, since some of the spells have to be pronounced in Latin. Also, objects can help him wield his magic, which I think is pretty cool, as he can infuse some magic into a chain, his staff, or other objects so that he can pack more of a punch if he needs to.

Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

Nathan (@reviewbarn) said...
January 2, 2014 at 8:49 AM

I tend to like my magic present enough that people know it is there, even powerful, but never quite so flashy (though I am very capable of enjoying other magic styles as well). So I think I will pick the magic in The Long Price Quartet by Danial Abraham. 'Poets' finding the exact wording of an idea to make it real, then capturing it. Very cool.

Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard said...
January 2, 2014 at 12:21 PM

I like Mercedes Lackey's magic systems. For one thing, they usually make internal sense; there are rules and consequences. I particularly love the bardic magic -- magic through music -- of her Bardic series, although oddly enough that one is more instinctual and nebulous than Lackey's other systems. But the idea of music being the means of creating a spell really appeals to me as a musician.

kimbacaffeinate said...
January 2, 2014 at 10:33 PM

These sound neat. I am not sure what I prefer but you did have me adding Brandon Sanderson's The Arithmatist to my reading list.

Pamela D said...
January 2, 2014 at 11:37 PM

If I had to choose a magic system, Harry Potter's magic is definitely the way to go. I can memorize a stack of spells, and then have magic clean my house for me! :)

Pamela D said...
January 2, 2014 at 11:38 PM

The magic system is nice and simple in this series. You are right that the characters do struggle to get the magic right. It isn't always easy.

Pamela D said...
January 3, 2014 at 12:09 AM

I had forgotten about the magic in the Dresden files. I like that magic too, because you have to be so careful with speaking the spells and that sometimes you need certain objects too. I also like that Dresden gets worn out when doing spells; his power isn't infinite.

Pamela D said...
January 3, 2014 at 12:11 AM

That sounds really cool. I will need to check these books out. Abraham is part of the duo that writes the Expanse series (pen name: James SA Corey), and I really enjoy those books. Thanks for sharing! :)

Pamela D said...
January 3, 2014 at 12:12 AM

I agree with you. I really like when magic has rules and consequences. I get frustrated when magic doesn't appear to have any limits. I am a fan of bards as well. I recently played a Dungeons & Dragons game with some friends, and I was the bard. Every time I would cast a spell, I would play a particular Katy Perry song. My character wanted to make it big under the bright lights of Waterdeep. :)

Pamela D said...
January 3, 2014 at 12:13 AM

LOL. Enjoy. I don't find it to be Sanderson's strongest book, but the geometry magic is really cool. There are pictures and everything. :)

Berls said...
January 3, 2014 at 2:46 AM

This is such an interesting question because I was just talking about it with my brother - I'm writing a book right now and we were debating the pros and cons of a learned, technical magic and an intuitive, "felt" magic. Ultimately, even though the latter would be way easier to write, I decided it was lackluster. I'm writing a bit of a combination, where there's some natural ability that's intuitive but there's also learning and skill involved. Its a pain to write though! I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one that appreciates something a bit more complex.

Berls said...
January 3, 2014 at 2:47 AM

This is such an interesting question because I was just talking about it with my brother - I'm writing a book right now and we were debating the pros and cons of a learned, technical magic and an intuitive, "felt" magic. Ultimately, even though the latter would be way easier to write, I decided it was lackluster. I'm writing a bit of a combination, where there's some natural ability that's intuitive but there's also learning and skill involved. Its a pain to write though! I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one that appreciates something a bit more complex.

Chene Sterckx said...
January 3, 2014 at 3:53 AM

Great question Pamela! I was pondering magic systems the other day. I enjoy where the characters can learn magic but also where the users have to learn to control the natural magic they could be born with.

Keep up the great thoughtful thursday posts!!

Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

Greg said...
January 3, 2014 at 4:40 PM

This is a great topic. I generally like stories where magic is innate or a gift that a person has, sure they can improve it through study, but I prefer that kind of magic over having to learn it per se. Some people just have the gift I guess. I also like magic to be rare and have consequences- the Lord of the Rings universe, where there are few actual users, comes to mind. Gandalf's constrained in what he can do, he can't just throw lightning bolts around and so on.

I also love the concept of bardic magic, or weaving magic through songs. Agree w/ Lark on that. Bards who are more than they seem, minstrels who use a bit of spell to enhance their performance, all the way up to master bards who can do wondrous things with a powerful song.

I had forgotten about the Farseer series, I enjoyed those books.

My anxious life said...
January 3, 2014 at 4:47 PM

I haven't actually read either book you listed, but I do play D&D. I tend to be a sorcerer when I play which is different then a wizard. In the D&D world a wizard must memorize their spells everyday. If they don't then they can't use it. I don't really like that. A sorcerer is born to magic instead of learning it so they just know spells. So the difference in the game is the wizard does have more spells to chose from but doesn't just know them. I am also usually always a magic character in video games too.

Pamela D said...
January 5, 2014 at 12:07 AM

I really appreciate both types of magic systems. The most important part for a magic system, for me, is finding ways of limiting the magic. Some magic systems are a bit too open, and people seem to be able to do whatever they want with a wave of a hand.I like rules and consequences. :)

Pamela D said...
January 5, 2014 at 12:09 AM

Ooooh, natural magic. I like that as well. Have you read any of the Tamora Pierce books? I read one last year that was too far into the series to truly appreciate, but the characters' magic relies on different earth-y things like rock, plants, wind, etc. You might enjoy her work. :)

Pamela D said...
January 5, 2014 at 12:12 AM

I like magic being rare in stories too. If the magic is too "easy," the system gets overpowered and problematic. I love a good bard as well. As I mentioned in my response to Lark, I played a bard in a dungeons & dragons game, and I had a ton of fun. I played certain Katy Perry songs for my different spells. :)

I really liked the first two Farseer books, Assassin's Quest was a bit too long and rambling. I really want to read the Fool's trilogy. Also Hobb is working on a new series focused on FitzChivarly and the Fool.

Pamela D said...
January 5, 2014 at 12:14 AM

I play D&D too! I rarely play magic users like the wizard, because I don't like that system either. I played a bard recently and that was a lot of fun. My bard wanted to make it big in Waterdeep and each spell was connected to a Katy Perry tune. Have you tried D&D Next? I am really enjoying the mechanics of the system. I should note that I am coming from D&D 2nd Edition, so the mechanics are much easier. I don't need to deal with THAC0. :)

Anne @ Lovely Literature said...
January 5, 2014 at 3:44 PM

I love this post! It made me realize that I need to read more of these series mentioned!

Asti [A Bookish Heart] said...
January 6, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Wait a second, how was I not following your blog already? You've been so lovely following mine and commenting for the past month that I just assumed I had you in my reader and um... nope! Silly me! That's definitely changed now, and I'm super excited to see you have Thoughtful Thursday posts! I'll be sure to add them to my Recaps :D

I actually haven't read either book you mentioned, but I love the original topic you're discussing this week! I guess for me I mainly love magic systems that punish the user. For example, the Curse Worker Series by Holly Black has characters with specific powers (reworking memories, death touch, etc). But, when they use those powers it has a negative effect on them (forgets own memories, body slowly starts to die with like finger tip falling off, etc). I like it when there is some kind of balance like that so the magic isn't just used whenever for whatever. If that makes sense...

Pamela D said...
January 6, 2014 at 5:46 PM

It really is amazing how many different types of magic systems out there. Happy reading!

Pamela D said...
January 6, 2014 at 5:50 PM

Thank you for following me and adding the post to your recap! That is very kind of you!

I also like magic systems that have a checks and balances system. I will have to check out the Curse Worker series, because I like the idea of the magic user getting "punished" for using his/her special powers. That would definitely put a limit on how much the magic users used their powers.

Alysia @ My Little Pocketbooks said...
January 21, 2014 at 7:36 PM

I never really thought about it. I am reading The Night Circus right now and I LOVE it and the magic is AMAZING!!

Pamela D said...
January 22, 2014 at 1:55 PM

I had forgotten about that book. Magic is done rather cleverly in that book.

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