Today I’m doing and informal discussion on magic. I highly recommend you watch my YouTube video of this. I think it’s a more enjoyable experience, but you can read a cleaned-up version of the closed captions here if you’d prefer.
I thought magic would be an appropriate transition from The Lord of the Rings into Harry Potter since they both have lots of magic. Magic systems are generally hard or soft, though they can fall somewhere in between. I definitely prefer hard magic. I like having rules and restrictions. Soft magic, where there aren’t really any known rules or restrictions, tends to be used as a plot convenience a lot. I don’t like that, so I prefer hard magic systems over soft.
I really like magic systems that include a variety of different things like spells, potions, and magical objects. I really like seeing a mix of all of those instead of it just being magic coming from a person. However, there are some magic systems I like that are just people-based magic. I’m going to talk about some of my favorite magic systems.
One of my favorites is the Grisha from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I like how there are different categories of magical abilities, and my favorite is the shadow summoning. If you know anything about me, you know how much I love villains, and shadow summoning and villains tend to go hand-in-hand, so I definitely like the darkness of shadow summoning. I also like healing magic, so I like that they have some people who are healers. I also like elemental magic, and they have summoners who can summon fire, water, or air. This one doesn’t really have a mix. You don’t see potions or magical objects. It’s really just people-based powers, but I still really like the way it is set up.
Of course, I like Harry Potter‘s magic system because that one has a wide variety. I particularly like the objects in Harry Potter, but the spells and potions are great as well. There are a lot of rules and restrictions. You have to have a wand, you have to know the spell, you have to know the movement that goes with the spell, etc. etc., and so I really like how that magic system is done.
I think the magic system from Fablehaven is fairly similar. You don’t have wands and spells, but you do have a huge variety. They tend to use objects and potions a lot, but they do have some people-based magic as well. Again, I really like seeing that mix, and I really love the objects. I love magical items. Can you tell?
Another one that I really like, and it’s just part of the magic system, is the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. Who doesn’t like the One Ring? The entire trilogy centers on this piece of jewelry, and it’s really magical, powerful, and amazing. I definitely like the One Ring.
Then there’s Eragon by Christopher Paolini, and while I don’t love this magic system as much as I love some of the others, I do like the idea behind it. I like that there’s the whole language that you have to know, and those words allow you to control the magic. I think that’s pretty interesting, and I also like the restrictions like the magic taking from your energy. I think that’s a pretty common trope where you have to have energy in order to use magic. I really like that the Grisha subvert that, and using their magic actually makes them stronger and healthier, and doesn’t make them tired. Harry Potter, on the other hand, isn’t energy based, so it doesn’t really fall into that category of using that trope.
Another one that I really like is the Force from Star Wars. That one I don’t know if you would call it hard or soft. I don’t know exactly where that would fall on the spectrum because we don’t really learn what all the Force can do and what it can’t and how exactly it works. I think it probably leans a little bit closer to soft magic, but I think it’s kind of in between. I really like the Force, particularly the Dark Side. The Dark Side is the best side. Do not let anyone tell you differently.
The next one feels more sci-fi to me, but there are people with magical abilities. It’s played off more as superpowers, which again is more sci-fi, but I’m going to include it because it is magical powers, and that’s Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. That one I find really interesting because they’re able to organize all of the powers into different categories because some powers are stronger than others, and different people have different combinations of powers, and the whole source of these powers is really interesting. That was an interesting reveal in the trilogy, and I find it interesting that there are people who randomly develop superpowers, and they have these different combinations and varying strengths, and they also have a weakness. They all have a weakness that allows them to be defeated.
Earlier I mentioned I like elemental magic, so of course I like the bending in Avatar: The Last Airbender. I like seeing the different elements included there and people being able to manipulate and use them.
More general magic I like seeing is healing magic. I also like elemental magic and magical objects. Those are just some general things I like to see in magic systems.
There’s only one magic system I could think of that I’m not a huge fan of. That one is also from Lord of the Rings, and it’s because it’s very soft magic, and it is used as a plot convenience on occasion, and that’s the magic that the wizards have like Gandalf and Saruman. I don’t think it’s bad in any way. I just personally don’t like how we have no idea what these two wizards can do, and so they just use their magic when the plot requires it. I’m not a huge fan of that, but again, that’s more personal taste and has absolutely nothing to do with how that was written.
That’s all I have on magic. For some reason I have not read a lot of books with magic in them. I’m trying to think of other books, and there are some others that have magic in them, but it’s not as prominent as it is in these books, so I decided not to include them.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite magic system is and if there’s a magic system you don’t like and why. I’m interested to see your answers.