Topic: Favorite Magic Systems
1. Worm by Wildbow
This is the book that makes almost every other superhero story unreadable for me. Worm has, in my opinion, one of the creative and diverse sets of powers I’ve ever seen. Characters ‘trigger’ their power by undergoing a sufficiently traumatic event, which unlocks something in their brain, and this cause of receiving powers from trauma is addressed heavily in the story. Power wise, Wildbow gets incredibly creative with how characters use their powers. Our MC, Taylor, can control bugs. Which doesn’t seem cool at first, until you find out that she has a costume made of black widow silk, and hides her identity by literally covering herself in bugs. Also she rides a giant beetle.
2. A Practical Guide to Evil by Erraticerra
(art by sandara)
True to the name, A Practical Guide to Evil is about practical Villains, with a capital V. In this book, character archetypes and plot tropes are built into the literal fabric of the world. Are you a hero, faced with overwhelming odds and your villainous enemy stands triumphant? No sweat, plot tropes say you’ll win in the end. Does your enemy have a literal flying castle? That’s okay, they’ll have missed one vital detail that’ll bring the whole thing tumbling down. Characters receive titles based on the archetype they embody, such as the Bumbling Conjurer, the Wandering Bard, or the Dread Empress, and have three ‘aspects’ or powers they can use to help them in a fight. While most characters are labeled literal Good or Evil, you find that those definitions will follow the letter, but not the law.
3. Shadows of the Limelight by Alexander Wales
Shadows of the Limelight asks the question, what if the strength of your powers was based on fame? In this book, the most famous heroes have literal propagandists, in charge of writing songs and spreading their fame to the far corners of the earth. The powers themselves are relatively simple: the power to control light, to control shadows, to control glass, to manipulate human muscle, but their applications are very cool. The guy who controls light? Spent two years studying how birds fly to give himself functional wings. The guy who controls muscle? Knows how to organically turn someone swole. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending, the idea and applications explored make it worth the read.
4. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
My first ever Sanderson novel, shamelessly picked because of the cover. Inspired by the stamps on Chinese pottery, the magic in this world is based on the idea of an object’s true name and the use of stamps to manipulate that. The MC Shai’s challenge is to create a seal that can re-create the Emperor’s Soul. To accurately represent his soul, she pours over journal entries and hears of personal experiences from advisors and other close to him. This book explores the meaning of being a person, what unique aspects set you apart from another.
5. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
I tried, really really hard, to only have one Sanderson novel on this list. I just couldn’t do it. Damn I love the magic in Mistborn so much. As you can probably tell by this list, I’m a sucker for a well fleshed-out hard magic system and Mistborn delivers that so perfectly. Ingesting a metal gives you certain well-defined abilities, that last for a specific amount of time, and interact with the environment in specific ways. So much appeal to the engineer inside me. On top of that, since I’ve only read the first book, there’s a whole other system of magic that I haven’t had the chance to explore yet and I can’t wait to learn more.