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Fantasy posted 21 August 2006 in Literature DiscussionFantasy by Werthead, Candidate

The use of magic in books is a difficult one to address. For example, as much as I thoroughly enjoy Erikson, the question of how the planet wasn't blown to pieces thousands of years ago given the powers some of these characters can wield does arise.

Martin does do it well, with the magic levels rising gradually. In fact, I think some of the choices he made in AFFC may have given us too much magic. Magic is a mysterious force when you're not sure how it works. Showing us a Valyrian magical telephone system somewhat diminishes that effect.

Jordan, despite his many sins, has a good take on magic. Thinking of it as a science and giving it extremely tight rules which also allow flexibility has given him a magic 'system' that is fairly impressive. Until Scott's introduction of the Gnosis, Psukhe and aganonic magics, the One Power was one of the more interesting and well-defined magic systems out there. True, it would be more impressive if the monolithic organisations that have studied magic for 3,700 years hadn't learned less than four 18-year-old girls had in less than two years, but there you go.

I think the worst thing a writer can do is make his magic so badly-defined that the characters can solve every problem they encounter through some hitherto unseen use of magic. Far more satisfying if you know that the sorcerer cannot escape from a trap as a dozen Chorae are aimed at his back, or because he's wandered into a dead magic zone, and he overcomes it through his own ingenuity rather than lazy deus ex machina. view post


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