Complex Magic Systems

Every great novel about magic has a cool explanation for how that magic works. In many stories, magic is achieved through language: a powerful verb (like the Grammatica of Flora Segunda), a correct name (as in A Wizard of Earthsea), or even a song (as in Skin Hunger). But some fictional wizards find power in unique sources. I wanted to highlight some of those complex magic systems here.

Bells (The Old Kingdom Series)

In Garth Nix’s novels Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, seven bells are used to channel magic. Each bell has its own power: one gives the dead the power of speech, one makes the dead walk, one casts all those who hear it into death, and so on. The Abhorsen to uses the bells to maintain the border between life and death, compelling the dead to return to where they belong.

Demons (The Bartimaeus Series)

In Jonathan Stroud’s hilarious books about the surly demon Bartimaeus, magic is accomplished through summoning¬† demons. A magician must learn how to summon, contain, and control demons of varying power in order to effect his magical purposes. In essence, these spirits become slaves to their magician masters–but they’re always looking for a chance to break free and destroy the ones who have imprisoned them.

Metals (The Mistborn Trilogy)

In Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn novels,¬† Allomancers swallow small amounts of certain metals in order to tap into their magical properties. For example, tin enhances the five senses while pewter enhances physical strength; zinc is used to inflame others’ emotions while brass soothes emotions. Most Allomancers have skill for using only one type of metal, but a Mistborn can command all the magic metal affords.

What interesting complex magic systems appear in your favorite novels?

Parker Peevyhouse

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2 responses to “Complex Magic Systems

  1. Natalie Aguirre

    Personally, I loved all the spells in Harry Potter and in The Magic Thief series.

    • Parker Peevyhouse

      The magic words in HP are fun and clever. I’ve read MAGIC THIEF but am having a harder time remembering the exact magic in that one.

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