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10 Types of Magic

What is it that separates fantasy novels from other genres? Most fantasy novels are set on mythical worlds straight from the author’s imagination, some inhabited by outlandish beasts, or strange and mysterious semi-human dwellers.  But what really defines and holds these worlds together is the existence of magic.  If I were to list them all, it would stretch into the thousands, so I won’t do that – but here are ten of them.

Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan – The Wheel of Time series.  There are two types of magic here – Saidin and Saidar.  The first is wielded by men, the second women. The Magic is drawn into different weaves to create new flows of magic – except that the taint on the male side has the unfortunate side effect of leaving men who use it mad after prolonged use…


Brandon Sanderson – The Mistborn series and Allomancy.  The presence of metals can be used within the wielders own blood stream or outside the body to startling effects – being able to repel themselves from a steel nail or Iron fence to leap across buildings or propelled across the land.  Think of the magnetic force of two magnets repelling each other and you’re half way there.

game of thrones

George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones.  Known as the higher mysteries in Westeros most forms of magic were failing and users considered little more than charlatans or tricksters….until dragons returned to the land, then all the higher mysteries started to regain their power.  The higher mysteries take many forms, Kings blood can be used to set a curse, Warg magic can be used to take control of the minds of animals or beasts, and both R’hllor the lord of light and the dark god of the white walkers have the useful skill of being able bring back the dead.

The Winter King

Bernard Cornwell – The Winter King.  This Arthurian legend is set in our own world, and therefore quite appropriately the magic in these novels take a realistic form that is still believable to the modern reader.  Therefore Merlin is a druid, who uses magical scrolls and cauldrons to issue curses or invoke prophesies.  No puffs of magic or dramatic fireballs here…

stormlight archives

Brandon Sanderson – The Stormlight Archive.  You have to hand it to Sanderson, he is good at creating new and original types of magic.  In this series, his world is full of Spren, magical spirits that float around the land and are (mostly) ignored by the inhabitants.  However the magic that embody the Spren can be harnessed by the Knights Radiant and their gifts bent to their will.  Magical storms that scour the land regularly, make an interesting backdrop too.

david Eddings

David Eddings – The Belgariad. The will and the world.  There are only a few sorcerers on the world of the Belgariad, but they have the fortunate trait of immortality.  They also have the ability of the will and the word.  They can concentrate on an item, gather their will and form the idea of what they want it to do, then on a command or word, execute that thought.  So….you see a rock, gather your will, command ‘Explode’ and POW!

farseer trilogy

Robin Hobb, The Farseer Trilogy.  Robin Hobb divides the magic of the Three Kingdoms in her series into two parts – The Skill and The Wit.  The first one is used by the monarchs from the ruling family: The Farseers.  The Skill gives the Farseers communication over long distances, far-sight so they can see events from afar and even dominion over other people’s minds.  The Wit is considered a base magic, dirty and soiled, and is the ability to communicate with animals and join minds with them.  However, the very highest level of magic can only be achieved by combining the two forms of magic…

prince of thorns

Mark Lawrence – The Broken Empire series – Lawerence’s fantasy novels are set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the physical attributes of their world have been altered so that strength of will alone can alter the laws of physics.  This leads to very powerful sorcerers who have harnessed this ability to dominate the land behind puppet kings in an ever-lasting struggle for dominion.

soldier son

Robin Hobb – The Soldier Son series.  This fantasy world is unusual in that it is set in a land of cannons and muskets, rather than swords and shields, but still magic abounds, and in particular the forest mages of the aboriginal inhabitants of the forest as they strive to hold off the incursions of the industrial soldiers and their magic destroying Iron weapons.  Forest mages fill themselves up with magic, until they become grossly fat, and dispense the magic in the form of a dance.  Certainly one of the more usual types of magic…

The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings.  Most of Middle Earth’s magic is bound up in the rings of power crafted by the Elves of Eregion under the guidance of Sauron.  Three rings for the Elves, seven for the Dwarves, and nine for Men.  Great wonders were created with these rings, from the golden woods of Lothlorien to the halls of Rivendell.  Unfortunately Sauron didn’t turn out to be quite so benevolent a tutor after all and created one ring for himself, one ring to rule them all, one ring to find them all, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them…

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