Every Thursday, Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn hosts a weekly party where blogs set out with Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel in hand to explore all the tropes from their favorite stories. So sit back and enjoy the fun.
16th April, 2015 – AWESOME DISPLAY OF MAGIC
Sometimes magic can be subtle. Who wants that? Big explosions or acts of creation, death and destruction or acts of awe inspiring wonder. If your world has magic then why not show it off?
Wow, this is an easy one. I shouldn’t have any trouble this week, because I’ve read so many fantasy books that there has to be literally hundreds of really cool displays of magic. Right?
STORM AND STEEL by JON SPRUNK
This is a no-brainer for inclusion on this week’s list. Not only have I just finished reading the ARC, but the last half of the book is filled with some amazing displays of magic.
For those that haven’t read Blood and Iron (The Book of the Black Earth #1), it introduces readers to a western sailor who is shipwrecked on his way to the Great Crusade against his heathen neighbors. Quickly, Horace (for that is this unlucky sailors name) is enslaved by the very people he came to fight and finds an iron collar clamped around his neck. Fate intervenes, however, when Horace’s latent magical power is discovered. This unexpected gift propels this simple man into the court of the heathen queen. Thereafter, Horace attempts to master a new culture, sidestep courtly intrigues, and learn to control his wild magic while not getting killed!
Book two takes off from where Blood and Iron stopped, and one thing Mr. Sprunk does the second time around is provide some serious displays of magic. After a rather uneventful (magically speaking) first half, Storm and Steel ratchets up the sorcery toward the end, showing everyone that Horace is one badass magician. And if his awesome magical displays aren’t enough, the vile villain, who we’ve all been waiting to be fully revealed, does a great job topping it!
Purchase Blood and Iron (The Book of the Black Earth 1) at Amazon.
DARKWAR by GLEN COOK
This under appreciated series by Glen Cook has one of the most awesome displays of magic in any book I’ve ever read. In this world, the Silth witches are the ultimate power. Not only are they the rulers of the entire world, but they also have some pretty impressive sorcery under their control. But the magical display that really impressed me were those that happen in the last third of the book. Now, I’m not saying these battles are all lights, explosions, and massive displays of arcane arts. Rather what was awesome about Darkwar‘s magic battles are where they take place and how they occur. I’d love to tell you more than that, but it would ruin the surprise Glen Cook has in store for you.
If you’d like to know more about this series, you can read my review.
Purchase Darkwar at Amazon.
MISTBORN by BRANDON SANDERSON
Is there a more awesome display of magic than Kelsier’s allomancy powers at work against the Steel Inquisitors?
If so, it is really difficult to remember it, because seeing this master use his metal powered skills against almost impervious agents of the Lord Ruler was awe inspiring.
Now, I’m sure there are other great displays of mistborn strutting their stuff in this series, but I haven’t finished it yet. But I gotta tell you it is going to be hard to top Kelsier in my eyes.
Buy Mistborn: The Final Empire at Amazon.
THE POWER THAT PRESERVES by STEPHEN R. DONALDSON
I know some people really hate Thomas Covenant or view the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, as nothing more than a Tolkien clone. That is your right to feel that way. I too thought Covenant was a whiny ass for most of the series, but he eventually developed into a more enlightened, whiny ass by the end. Be that as it may, this book has two of the most awesome displays of magic that I can remember in fantasy. The first is Lord Mhoram fighting outside Revelstone even as despair fills his heart. The other is the inevitable confrontation between Thomas Covenant and Lord Foul. Each magical display amazing in its own way. Well worth putting up with Covenant.
Buy Lord Foul’s Bane (THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT THE UNBELIEVER Book 1) at Amazon and start your trip into whiny leper wonderland.
THE BLACK COMPANY by GLEN COOK
Now, this story doesn’t have the stunning visual display of magic like, say, Mistborn, but what it does have is two memorable magical scenes. The first is the creepy scene where Lady captures one of the rebel generals and performs the ritual of “Taking” upon her. Even without immense details, Cook is able to make that a scene that I still vividly recall. The other is the Battle of Charm where we have the Taken flying around fighting until Lady eventually shows herself. Yet again, Cook is able to charge the scene with power with very crisp, blunt language.
Buy Lord Foul’s Bane (THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT THE UNBELIEVER Book 1) at Amazon.
THE MASTER by LOUISE COOPER
This fantasy series follows Tarod, a mysterious youth, who has immense magical power but finds himself branded a traitor by his fellow acolytes of Order. To prove his innocence of the charges leveled against him, Tarod travels far to the south where the Lords of Order themselves can be summoned and judge him. The magical battle that results is an awesome event, which dazzles both in its mystical elements and its emotional ones as well. One that I find myself wanting to revisit every few years to see if it still lives up to my memories of it. Naturally, it isn’t as awe-inspiring as when I was fourteen, but it is still quite good.
Buy The Initiate: Time Master Trilogy at Amazon.
DERYNI RISING by KATHERINE KURTZ
I have to end this list with one of the first magical battles that made me go “Wow!” when I began my fantasy journey. Here Prince Kelson is forced to learn magic as quickly as he can before meeting a rival claimant to the throne of Gwynedd. This magical duel might seem a bit ho-hum by today’s standards, but, at the time, it was pure magical awesomeness.
Buy Deryni Rising (The Chronicles of the Deryni series Book 1) at Amazon.
Great list. I included Mistborn as well, and had Thomas Convenant in mind, but I couldn’t remember enough detail to really do him justice. I do like your description of him as a “more enlightened, whiny ass.”
I’ve seen “The Black Company” mentioned here and there, and I was intrigued. Now your indication about “very crisp, blunt language” tells me I should not wait any longer to sample Cook’s writing. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
One of the things that had surprised me with Tolkien, was how understated magic was. I mean, Gandalf’s greatest trick seemed to be a light at the end of his staff. So, it was great reading about some of the alternatives 🙂
Absolutely agree with your assessment. Tolkien kept the magic in the background, mentioning it but never really showing you the awesome power of Gandalf or Sauron. Something that probably made it seem even more powerful. At least, it did to me.
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Same here, but what an odd choice!
See, this is where I admit to disliking Kelsier and probably getting stoned by imaginary stones *hides under the table*. I understand why the guy might hold the affection of readers but I just never felt for him what I was supposed to. I think it was him being too perfect and all-powerful? Dunno.
I am there with you, Kaja. I liked Kelsier, but his whole master plan thing really was a bit too much for me.
Yes, exactly! And his need to manipulate people, too. Eh, he must have appealed to some people, since the series has become a classic, right?
Must have, but that was the exact character trait that made me NOT like him.
Great list – I’ve not read all of them but I’m kicking myself for not thinking of Mistborn – simply because it was such an unusual and unique magic system (for me anywhere).
One thing Sanderson does in this book is craft an amazing magic system. Not that the story wasn’t good as well, but the author definitely deserves all the praise for the allomancy idea.
Second book of Sprunk’s series worth reading? If I was someone who didn’t really enjoy book one but saw a little potential?
Nathan took the words right out of my mouth. I felt the same way about Blood and Iron, but damn, lots of magic in Storm in Steel? Intriguing.
Black Earth was already on my wishlist, and so is Darkwar now (I love the Black Company, and Nathan’s also recommended Cook’s Instrumentalities of the Night series). Mistborn and Thomas Covenant have both been on my TBR for ages . . . dilemma! Which to try first? 😀
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