Tough Traveling: Awesome Displays of Magic


Tough Traveling is a weekly feature, created and hosted by Nathan at the Fantasy Review Barn, in which participants come up with a list of books that follow the fantasy tropes that can be found in Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to FantasylandEach week, Nathan picks a new subject. This week’s topic was a little harder for me than last week’s, but I think I came up with some good examples. In all of these books, magic practically jumps off the pages, begging to be noticed:

AWESOME DISPLAYS 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?

U.S. cover, Tor Books
U.S. cover, Tor Books

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Schwab’s latest is filled to the brim with awesome magic. In this insanely creative example of world-building, there are four different Londons: Red London, where magic is vibrant and used for good; White London where cruel rulers have made life dangerous and harsh; Grey London where magic has all but disappeared; and mysterious Black London that may or may not exist anymore. When the magic of Black London was about to lose control, Red London stepped in and magically sealed off the doors to Black London for good.

California BonesCalifornia Bones by Greg van Eekhout. There are lots of awesome, big magic in van Eekhout’s world, but one example is magician Gabriel’s special brand. Gabriel is a water mage, and he is powerful enough to control all the water in Los Angeles. He doesn’t lose control and do anything terrible to the city’s water supply, but the fact that he could is enough for me to include him on this list. From the canal systems that run through the city like freeways, to the pipes full of water that weave throughout houses and

City of StairsCity of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. This book is filled with big magical displays! When the Gods of the city Bulikov were killed by a powerful group of magic wielders, an event called The Blink occurred—an event that literally changed the city forever. Buildings were magically reconstructed and stairways that go nowhere suddenly appeared. And in another awesome display of magic, Shara inadvertently releases a powerful monster named Urav, who is set loose in the sea and begins to terrorize the city.

The Mirror EmpireThe Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. Here’s another example with a potentially awesome display of magic. In a world where people obtain their magic from the stars, the rising of the star Oma portents tragedy and world war. Oma hasn’t been seen in many years, and many people don’t believe it exists. But the presence of Omajistas, those who get their magic from the star Oma, are preparing for it to rise.

Two Serpants RiseTwo Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone. All of Gladstone’s books have great examples of magic gone crazy, but I thought I’d use this book to illustrate—once again—the potentially destructive kind of magic that needs to be stopped before it turns deadly. In this story, a powerful craftswoman named Malina Kekapania wishes to wake two powerful and deadly serpents, asleep deep in the ocean, who will destroy the world once they wake up.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some obvious examples, can you think of any good ones?

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Posted April 16, 2015 by Tammy in Tough Traveling / 20 Comments


20 responses to “Tough Traveling: Awesome Displays of Magic

    • Tammy

      I’m the opposite, I seem to remember more details about the books I’ve read recently:-D

  1. Ohhhhhhh, there be lots of magical awesomeness in the Harry Potter novels! Gandalf’s taking-down of the Balrog in The Fellowship Of The Ring is a great example, too. And from recent books… Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone has some vividly described displays of magic that are nothing short of breathtaking. 🙂
    Sara L. recently posted…Beautiful People, Vol. 3: Siblings EditionMy Profile

    • I forgot about Shadow and Bone – the magic in that was my favourite part of the book! The ‘sun summoning’ always sounded really beautiful and spectacular.

      The Mirror Empire has a fantastic magic system too, good call with that… I feel like it shows up on a list every week! So much stuff in there.
      Jenn recently posted…Tough Traveling: Awesome Displays of MagicMy Profile

      • Tammy

        I think The Mirror Empire is chock full of fantasy tropes material and that is why it keeps popping up on these lists:-D

    • Tammy

      I know, I completely forgot about Harry Potter!! I knew others were probably going to hit the Lord of the Rings books so I didn’t even go there, since I read them a long time ago.

  2. Yeah, I usually remember my most recent reads which is why I’m surprised I didn’t think of Gladstone – I’ve only just read Three Parts Dead and I’m currently reading Serpents Rising. Such great imagination.
    I think this may be the only post with Bennett – I could be just forgetting of course – but, yeah, great inclusion. I loved that book.
    Lynn 😀
    Lynn recently posted…‘I’m free. I’m free. Quick. Quick. Wish for something outrageous. Say, “I, I want the Nile.”‘My Profile

    • Tammy

      I’m glad you love Gladstone like I do! He’s amazing and his world building is just…different.

  3. I’m working on Darker Shade of Magic right now and enjoying it tremendously. It’s interesting – I’ve lived long enough now to discover Neil Gaiman when he was just starting and now discovering the writers inspired by him. Mirror Empire I keep meaning to pick up, and Van Eekhout is on my soon-to-be-read list – he’s coming out this way in a month or so. Ditto Gladstone. And City of Stairs – I can’t say enough good about that book.
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    • Tammy

      Glad you love A Darker Shade of Magic! You should also read Vicious, I actually love that one even more:-D

  4. Oooh, you included A Darker Shade of Magic on your list! I loved that book. And I agree, the four Londons are awesome – I can’t wait to see what happens next with Kell and Lila. 🙂
    I’ve read good things about City of Stairs – is it worth a read?
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