This week’s Top 5 Wednesday is technically about 2019 releases that you don’t care about. While I do post negative reviews (and I have been having a crisis determining if I should continue doing so), I am trying to be a less negative person. So, rather than that topic, I chose a past topic about favorite magic systems. I tried to stay away from my favorite worlds that had magic in them and rather, choose worlds in which the system of magic played a pivotal role. I’ll warn you now that you might see a trend.
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
This is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses. Theirs is a world in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city. A world transformed by a power based on an essence known as breath. Using magic is arduous as breath can only be collected one unit at a time.
Sanderson gets me every time with his creativity. You’ll find me hard pressed to easily explain any of them, so I’m not going to try. Not only does the magic rely on breath, but it also leeches color as it’s used, which I think is such a fun addition. This is one of my favorite novels, and it’s a stand-alone, so go read it already!
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.
Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
I’m not sure why I bothered to include the synopsis for this one (consistency, I guess). Rowling’s world is simple yet sensational. It makes magic real and easy enough that you or I can pretend to be witches and wizards.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?
In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage — Allomancy, a magic of the metals.
Another Sanderson. This time the magic revolves around the ingestion of metals and the powers it can give certain people. It’s a bit complicated, but he does a great job of weaving explanation into the plot without making it feel heavy-handed.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive
Not only is the villain an interesting style of magic, but the magic used between worlds is fun and inventive. I also very much like that magic is rare in this world.
The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.
It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.
Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.
I warned you that there would be a trend. Sanderson is the master of new and wonderful magic systems. This one is a lot to take in: shardblades and shardplate, magical storms, and the Knights Radiant. Yet, once again, he works his own magic to make it all come together in powerful, gripping stories.
What are some of your favorite magic systems? Do you disagree with any of my picks?