For me, there’s one thing I look forward to in almost every fantasy novel I read: the magic systems. I absolutely love them, love puzzling out how they work, seeing the consequences, trying to decide how I would fit in.
The puzzling really appeals, now that I think about. But keep in mind, I’m the color-code enthusiast who loved doing Punnett squares in high school biology class. I like structure in my magical happenings.
But even books without concrete magic structure can be amazing (magic with a nebulous quality has a charm of its own), and below are some of the best of both!
1. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
If I ever stop talking about the Witchlands series, assume I’ve left this mortal coil.
Anyway, I LOVE the way the magic works in Truthwitch! It’s very elemental for the most part (you can just feel the Avatar: The Last Airbender in it sometimes, and Dennard has said that was part of the inspiration behind it), and when it’s not elemental, the magic is so fascinating. The main character is the title character, able to sense with her magic when someone is being truthful and when they are lying. Her best friend (AND MY FAVORITE CHARACTER) is a struggling Threadwitch whose magic allows her to see the ties that bind the people of her world to others. There are other magics, too, plus some really neat applications of the standard elemental magics. All very, very good.
2. The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden
This book had a fantastic modern twist of magic to it, set in hurricane-ravaged modern day New Orleans. It also had vampires, which I was not expecting but kind of actually really enjoyed given some of the plot points that unfolded along the way. But back to the magic, there’s an interesting time element to it, and the consequences for the next books should be really interesting. Book 2 is apparently called The Romeo Catchers, and I’m hoping to get my hands on it this summer.
3. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
It’s not fair how gorgeous this cover is, and that’s even before you get to the words inside. Schwab does it again with This Savage Song. To be fair, I’m not sure how much you want to qualify the things August can do as magic, but it’s just so haunting and clever and wonderful that I want to consider it magic, or at least to consider the words magic. Plus, there are some magic sorts of monsters, and it’s a very dark sort of book, not a sweeping almost-hopeful fantasy book. A very different flavor than anything else in this post.
4. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
There will never be another book that I love in quite the same way that I adore Howl’s Moving Castle. I was introduced to the Studio Ghibli version first, and it amazes me how different the two are, but how much they both make me happy. Most important to today’s post, though? Sophie and her magic.
“But Meaghan! Sophie has no magic!” No, no, no, Sophie has no strongly visible magic. But amidst all the exciting magic that follows Howl, she has her own magic. Pay attention to the things she says to other characters, especially when she says what she imagines they could be. Or pay attention to when she jokes, and see how much truth there is in it. She may not be a wizard like Howl, but she has a quiet brand of almost invisible magic that just delights me to no end!
Aren’t these books just so magical? Which one would you most like to be a part of? Outside of these, what’s your favorite magic system of all time? Which magical skills do you love to read about? Which ones would you love to have? It’s such an enchanting topic; we could really have this discussion for a long time, I think.