Book Recs: Amazing Magical Systems

I’m so mad at myself. It’s already mid-May and I’ve yet to do one of these #WyrdandWonder prompts… until now. Initially, my plan was to post every day but that quickly got pushed aside as life got busy. But finally I’m able to post a prompt. Today I’ll feature

my top 10 magical systems

But it’ll be seven instead because I couldn’t think of any more to include.

By the way, #WyrdandWonder is a month-long celebration of all things fantasy. Click here to see the other prompts.

Avatar: The Last Airbender by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino (illus.)

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a children’s TV show that aired on Nickelodeon. It’s about a boy named Aang who’s raised as a monk and one day learns he’s the avatar destined to save the world. Afraid of what this might mean, Aang runs away from his duties and later the world is thrown into chaos due to the Fire Nation’s growing imperialism.

One of the many things I love about this story is the characters’ ability to manipulate the elements — earth, air, fire, water, and spirit, the last which only an Avatar can manipulate. It’s a cool concept, and I love it when characters of opposing elements fight or when a character’s ability becomes more powerful, like an earth-bender who’s able to manipulate/bend metal or a fire-bender who’s able to bend lightning. The creepiest is a water-bender who decides to bend blood thus manipulating a person’s actions.

Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

I haven’t completed this series and am only halfway through it, so there’s still much about the magic system I do not yet know. Wheel of Time is a fantasy series about a group of characters from a small town who are all instrumental in saving the world from a dark, evil force. It’s an epic story that includes many characters and locations and is filled with beings akin to witches and wizards, monsters, battles, kingdoms, knights, and every other thing you can imagine to appear in an epic fantasy story.

This magic system is a little similar to that of Avatar. Those talented enough to do so can manipulate or weave flows of the One Power, which is woven to manipulate the elements — earth, wind, fire, water, and spirit — to achieve a certain effect. For example, air can be woven to bind a person’s hands and feet to prevent her from moving or stuff a person’s mouth to prevent her from speaking. The One Power has male and female halves, so only men can channel Saidin, the male half, and only females can channel Saidar, the female half. Females can see the weaves of other female channelers but are unable to see those by men and vice versa.

This magic system is very detailed and I can go on and on about the little bit I know, but I won’t. I’ll only add that I think it’s interesting that the genders have different aptitudes for manipulating certain elements, and I appreciate that Jordan drew on several world mythologies to create this fantasy world and magic system.

the gift or blessed by a god/goddess

Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce

A YA fantasy series that begins with Alanna: The First Adventure. It’s about a girl who poses as a boy so that she can train to become a knight.

I love the magic system in these books although it’s not very detailed. Basically, some people have magical abilities, called “the gift,” and others don’t. I don’t believe it’s said what determines who does/doesn’t have the gift. Anyway, one’s magical ability allows a person to do any amount of amazing things, but a person has to be careful to use only the amount of magic she can handle. Otherwise, the gift will deplete her energy and burn her from inside out.

Though only a few details are given about it, I’ve always loved the concept of the gift because each person’s gift has a unique color. Alanna’s is purple, which I loved because that’s one of my favorite colors. I also like that individuals can be god-touched or blessed by a god or goddess, which makes the person even more powerful and means that she gets thrown into crazy adventures. When I read these books as I kid, I often wished I had the gift or was blessed by the gods, lol.


Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Everyone’s familiar with this story by now: an orphan boy learns he’s a wizard and is able to escape his horrible aunt and uncle’s clutches for a few months out of the year to attend a wizarding boarding school where he has crazy adventures while eluding an evil wizard that shall not be named.

If you’ve read the Harry Potter books, then most likely you’d like to get a wand too so you can do the amazing spells you’ve read about in the story. I first read these books as a kid in middle school and even now, as an adult in my 30s, I still want a wand. I even bought one when I visited Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter (at Ollivander’s shop) and was a teensy bit upset that it wasn’t real. (I knew it wouldn’t be real yet a small part of me still hoped.)

Despite the classes and discussions about magic, I don’t think much detail is given about this magic system in the books except for Hermione dropping some fact every now and then to inform readers and certain characters that one can’t create something from nothing. Most of the spells are conducted to cause something to happen, like unlock a door or make a person hang upside down. But I find it all interesting and think the world is amazing and would love to delve deeper into it.

Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend
Shadow Weaver duology by MarcyKate Connolly

Both of these are middle-grade fantasy stories. The Nevermoor books are about a girl who is believed to be cursed and unlucky but is taken to a new city where she learns she probably has a special knack that might allow her to enroll in the prodigious Wondrous Society. In the Shadow Weaver books, every 25 years the Cerelia Comet passes over the land giving certain people special talents. The books focus on a girl who can speak to her shadow and manipulate shadows.

I placed these two together because the magic system in both is similar. Both focus on a person’s special ability, which are always magical, and the abilities mentioned in both books are similar in type. So in Nevermoor a person’s knack could be for prophecy or convincing people to do a certain thing or manipulating time. The Shadow Weaver books include similar talents. In addition to manipulating shadows, it includes individuals who can manipulate light, shape shift, and teleport.

In both books, a person often has only one knack/talent but those who possess more than one (if possible) are extraordinary or wicked (lol!). It’s fun to see the knacks and talents play out in the stories; it often makes me wish I had such an extraordinary ability. But, alas, the only extraordinary ability I possess is being a master procrastinator.

Fullmetal Alchemist series by Hiromu Arakawa (illus.)

Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga series that was adapted for anime. It follows the adventures of the Elric brothers who are trying to regain their original bodies after an experiment caused the older brother to lose a leg and the younger brother to lose his entire body. The older brother then sacrificed an arm so that he could tie his younger brother’s soul to a suit of armor. It sounds gruesome, and it is, but it’s such a great read!! 😀

In the real world, alchemy is a science that predates chemistry (I think; I didn’t look this up, I just called it up from memory so fact-check that on your own) and such is the case (more or less) in Fullmetal Alchemist. However, due to alchemy, certain individuals have special abilities and aptitude for certain skills, like extreme strength or being able to produce/manipulate fire or heal/manipulate the human body. Usually a person has to draw a transmutation circle in order to do alchemy, but those who have pushed alchemy to its limit and have committed the outlawed act of attempting to bring back someone from death can do alchemy without a transmutation circle….

Okay, so I trailed off there because I haven’t yet completed the manga and though I watched all the anime, I was in a constant state of OMG I LOVE THIS SHOW IT’S SO AMAZING!!! that I didn’t pay attention to much details so… I can’t explain much more than that about the magic system, but trust me about this: It’s cool. It’s amazing. It’s worth checking out.

Realm of the Elderlings series by Robin Hobb

The Realm of the Elderlings series is an extensive epic fantasy series that’s made up of several trilogies and one quartet. The trilogy that begins the story is the Farseer trilogy, which is about the bastard son of prince who becomes an assassin’s apprentice.

There are two magic systems in this series: Skill and Wit. Skill is the ability to telepathically communicate with other human beings. It’s an ability that is respected and mostly the noble have. Wit is the ability to telepathically communicate with animals. Many people who are Witted are bonded to an animal. Wit is an ability that is outlawed and reviled and that few people have. Both are pretty amazing and cause interesting outcomes when used together.

There are also dangers for using them. For example, the Skill is alluring and addictive and a person’s mind can get lost in it leaving the person senseless, so the body wastes away because the mind is lost forever. The Wit can become dangerous if the human gives in too much to animalistic tendencies or if an animal gives in too much to human tendencies. In that way, both human and animal lose their natural inclinations. Though both, when bonded, will deeply influence each other, it is important that both hold on to what defines them as human or animal.

Both Skill and Wit are interesting magic systems that I’m still learning about as I near the end of the series. Though I like both, if I should choose one, I would go with the Skill because of the many things it allows a person to do, like manipulate dreams.

So, what do you think?

What magic systems do you admire or think were created well?


Wyrd and Wonder is a month-long celebration in May of all things fantasy. To celebrate, I’ll only publish fantasy-related posts, like this one! 😊 I’m also hosting a GIVEAWAY for W&W. Click here to enter.


13 thoughts on “Book Recs: Amazing Magical Systems

  1. I haven’t seen Avatar, but I really want to, especially because its magic system always gets used as a great example of a well thought out system. I did like the magic system in wheel of time, even if I didn’t get into the series. And I particularly love the world building in HP! And hobb is great too!


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