Review

Review: Goldenhand (Abhorsen #5) by Garth Nix

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

And here it is at last, my long overdue review of Goldenhand by Garth Nix. I started reading this as soon as it landed on my doormat, and read it in two days – back in October. Sadly, due to my preparations for Sci-Fi Month, and the fact that sometimes I take FOREVER to get my thoughts together, it has taken me this long to write my review up.

I first read Sabriel, the first book in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen/The Old Kingdom series when I was 12 or 13. I think it was a birthday present, and I’m not sure who from now – but whomever it was, I am incredibly grateful to them. This was the beginning of my love for the series, and I devoured the next two books as soon as I could. It is a series that has remained with me ever since, and in the fourteen years since I read it for the first time, I have re-read it countless times. I even took part in a readalong of Sabriel on my blog a few years ago. When Clariel was published in 2014, I was of course ecstatic – but it didn’t feel quite the same. Being a prequel to the main series, it was lacking what I had fallen in love with – namely the familiar characters, ones that I’d ‘adventured’ with.

And then along came Goldenhand.

Goldenhand picks up where Lirael leaves off. We get to follow the badass Second Assistant Librarian turned Abhorsen-in-Waiting once again. We get to see familiar faces, such as Sabriel and Touchstone. Returning to the Old Kingdom was just truly magical, and it felt like reading the series for the first time all over again. It brought up those feelings, that enchantment I felt when I first read Sabriel, and how drawn I was into the world of the Abhorsen.

Nix’s writing is just as excellent as ever, and of course the world building is stellar. He builds even further upon his creation of more than a decade ago, and Goldenhand helps to paint an even more vivid picture of the world in which Lirael lives. It is even published using the same classic font as the first books, which somehow reminded me even more strongly of this world into which I had escaped. And what I love about this world is how much it feels like ours, but with a magical twist. As a bookish twelve-year-old (and even now as a bookish 26-year-old) I could totally imagine myself accompanying Lirael and Sabriel on their journeys, exploring Anceltierre and The Old Kingdom. There is enough of a threat to the world that you feel a sense of peril, an urgency to read on and make sure that the heroes will be okay, even when you know things will turn out okay. I’ve never encountered anything like the magic system in these books in any other – a magic that feels so real and entwined in everything.

Goldenhand is, without a doubt, an excellent return to the Old Kingdom, and one that cannot be missed. If, like me, you fell in love with the series on your first read all those years ago, then for nostalgia’s sake pick up a copy of Goldenhand and dive back in! If you’ve never read any of Garth Nix’s books, then I highly recommend you start with Sabriel and work your way through the series – it is an absolute classic for fantasy fans, no matter your age. Truly a series I will treasure forever.

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #22: Scariest Creatures in Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post! This post is a special edition as part of Horror October!

Today I want to talk about: the scariest creatures in fantasy.

The Nazgul/Ringwraiths

Nazgul

From: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Why? They never tire, they are relentless and they will keep going until they get what they desire – the One Ring. Their terrifying shriek can be heard from a long way away and only serves to put fear in the hearts of their victims. Not only can they catch up to you on horseback, but they also have Fell Beasts which means you’re pretty much always within their reach. Not to mention the fact that they carry Morgul blades, and you REALLY don’t want to be stabbed by one of those – or you might become Ringwraith #10. Stay near running water though, and you might be okay…

Dementors

Dementor

From: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Why? They look terrifying, and they literally suck the happiness out of everything. So not only would you be faced with this horrific looking creature, but you’d also feel utterly full of despair and pretty much helpless. And then once you’ve given up, the Dementor will try to SUCK OUT YOUR SOUL. Ugh. Not a nice way to go. Better start learning that Patronus charm.

The Dead

Sabriel by Garth Nix

From: The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

Why? Unless you’re a Necromancer, or happen to be the Abhorsen, you’re pretty much powerless against the Dead of the Old Kingdom. Seeing as the Old Kingdom is almost uninhabited I’m not sure what you’d be doing in there in the first place, but it’s a bad idea. Even the Abhorsen’s Bells, one of the few things that can send the Dead back to the Final Gate, can turn against him or her.

White Walkers

White Walker

From: the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

Why? Do you happen to have any handy Dragonglass/obsidian lying around? No? Well then you’re probably dead, because that’s the only way you can defeat a White Walker. They’re brutal, strong and bloodthirsty – and not particularly picky about their prey. I would advise staying south of the Wall…

What are some of the scariest creatures in fantasy that you’ve come across?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #20: Historical Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: historical fantasy

I’m sorry, I’m aware it’s been a little while since I did a Fantasy Friday post – but these are always the ones that take me the longest to write, and as I haven’t been feeling too much up to blogging for the past month, they were also the first posts to get put aside!

Historical fantasy is a particularly wonderful branch of the fantasy genre, and to me it can mean two things. Either a story based on real events, places or people but with some magical or fantasy elements, or a new fantasy world that is inspired by real history or places. I wanted to share some examples of the sub-genre – they’re all ones I have either read, or heard very good things about.

1. Lion of Macedon (Greek Series #1) by David Gemmell

Lion of Macedon

To be honest, I can’t think of anything much better than blending ancient Greek history and mythology with fantasy fiction. And with Lion of Macedon, David Gemmell has done that.

2. Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori #1) by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor

I read Across the Nightingale Floor about seven or eight years ago, when I had a great interest in Japanese history. It’s loosely based on the feudal era of Japanese history, with plenty of fantastical elements. I never quite finished the series, but I do remember enjoying the first two books a lot.

3. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana

I’ve been aware of Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay for a while now, but I only just recently decided to add it to my ‘to read’ list as I finally looked into what it’s really about. It is based on Renaissance Italy, which is an interest of mine – so definitely one to look out for! Would it be too much to hope that there are characters influenced by the Borgias?? I can dream.

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

I first read The Historian when I was about fifteen or sixteen, and it just completely grabbed me and pulled me right in. I devoured it in a matter of days. Following a young woman tracing her family’s history, she soon finds herself tangled up with the history of one Vlad Tepes, and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. It’s creepy and dark but very addictive.

5. Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin

A very recent release from Robin Hobb, Fool’s Assassin is inspired by elements of medieval history. In fact there are plenty of fantasy series which draw from medieval history (including one that has been turned into a hit TV show…), but I wanted to showcase this book in particular as I will hopefully be reviewing it soon!

6. Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

Kind of hard to ignore Outlander when it’s been everywhere recently, thanks to a recent TV show adaptation. I honestly hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago, despite the book being nearly as old as myself, but as soon as I read about it, it went straight onto the wishlist. It’s about a woman who gets teleported back in time, from 1945 to the highlands of Scotland in 1743. EVERYONE is raving about it!

7. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon

Napoleonic Wars? Check. Dragon combat? Check. His Majesty’s Dragon is an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, imagining that they were fought with dragons. Do I need to say any more?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Another one set during the Napoleonic Wars, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell features magic instead of dragons. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been recommended this book by various people, and how many times I’ve heard friends speak highly of it.

9. Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I’ve spoken a lot about Sabriel in the past, so if you’re a regular reader of the blog then you will know of my love for the series. It’s set in an alternative early twentieth century England, but instead of the First World War the people of Ancelstierre have to fight the dark forces of Necromancy.

10. Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan

Another alternate history that everyone needs to read, Leviathan imagines that World War I was fought using beasts, developed using Darwinist theories, and machines. I cannot recommend this series enough, and as a bonus it has some gorgeous illustrations.

What are your favourite historical fantasy novels? Did you enjoy any of the ones listed here?

Museum of Literary Wonders

Museum of Literary Wonders #4

Museum of Literary Wonders

Hello, and welcome back to the Museum of Literary Wonders! Are you ready for another part of the tour? Perhaps some of you have just joined us for the first time today, in that case let me explain. I am Rinn, the curator and your tour guide for today. The museum holds many wonderful objects from many different worlds and universes, preserved in this museum because of their importance – perhaps they hold a lot of meaning, perhaps they’re important plot points or maybe just because they’re pretty… For whatever reason, they have been carefully stored in the museum collection so that generation after generation can learn about them. Without further ado, let us go on!

Sabriel


museum_bells

The name of these Necromancer’s Bells is deceiving, as they were also used by the Abhorsen in the Old Kingdom, both to bind and raise the dead. Made of silver with mahogany handles, they are infused with both Charter and Free Magic, and as a result are very dangerous. A full set has seven bells, the names of which are Ranna, Mosrael, Kibeth, Dyrim, Belgaer, Saraneth and Astarael. In the hands of the wrong person, they could cause utter chaos, hence the high security around this exhibit.

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Jeep


museum_jeep

Perhaps you remember reading in the newspaper about a new dinosaur ‘theme park’ with real live dinosaurs, and how it all went terribly wrong? People eaten by a tyrannosaurus rex, ripped to shreds by velociraptors? No? Well anyway, this is one of the jeeps from Jurassic Park – one of the few that wasn’t stomped on or ripped apart by a hungry king of the lizards. And don’t worry, it was carefully checked before it arrived here – no compsognathuses hiding away in the boot or anything…

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True Blood


museum_trueblood

Perhaps you recognise this bottle of True Blood. Perhaps it’s something you consume on a regular basis. It may be an every day object for some people, but it also marks a historical event: the creation of synthetic blood by Japanese scientists, which enabled vampires to come ‘out of the coffin’, and reveal their existence. The revelation that vampires were real changed a LOT – new rules and regulations, political and religious stances against and for vampires, many people turned against neighbours and friends. Whatever you may think about it, it was certainly a game changer.

Are there any questions about today’s tour? What exhibits would you like to see next?

Buddy Read

Bell & Sword: A Sabriel Read-along (Fantasy Casting)

Bell and Sword

Today is the last part of the Sabriel read-along hosted by The Duchesses.

This post will contain details and possibly spoilers about the events in Sabriel.

As I read more and more of the book, the events came back to me. I didn’t take many notes when re-reading the last bit, as I wanted to do something different for this last post. There was one particular description of Touchstone, something about his curly hair, that conjured up an image of Ser Loras Tyrell from A Song of Ice and Fire. This gave me the idea of sharing my fantasy casting for a film version of Sabriel – apparently there were plans to pitch the film in 2008, but nothing has really progressed since.

sabrielcasting
sabrielcasting2
sabrielcasting3

I think Tim Curry could play the smug aspect of Mogget really well, I can totally imagine a cat with his voice! Jeremy Irons would be a good Abhorsen, an authoritative figure who is also fatherly. Finn Jones, as previously mentioned, would be a pretty good Touchstone in my mind. Stephen Fry makes me think of Colonel Horyse, if only for his Blackadder days. I reckon Dane DeHaan would be a great Rogir, he was a wonderfully evil Harry Osborn in the recent The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And finally, it took me a while because I didn’t want to choose anyone really well known, but I settled for Alice Englert as Sabriel.

What do you think of my fantasy casting? Who would you choose for your ideal version of Sabriel?

Buddy Read

Bell & Sword: A Sabriel Read-along (Chapters 11 – 21)

Bell and Sword

Last week I discussed from the prologue to chapter ten of Sabriel, and now it’s time for the second read-along post! I’ll be discussing chapters eleven to twenty-one this time. Don’t forget to check out Paola’s posts!

This post will contain details and possibly spoilers about the events in Sabriel.

Well my memory was correct! Apart from the whole Touchstone being a ship thing but… yeah. That was more to do with me not being able to remember the word for figurehead, than thinking he had actually been turned into a ship! But the scenes I had remembered did appear, and as I read more of the book more and more of it came back to me. I have no idea what will be in the last third though – and according to Goodreads, last time I read this book was 2011. It’s not even been that long!

  • Gore crows are eerie. I have this memory of another, quite prominent, scene featuring gore crows, but I have a feeling it’s in fact not from Sabriel, but either Lirael or Abhorsen.
  • I love how Touchstone basically reduced Sabriel to a blushing schoolgirl. When he was still a figurehead, and completely naked, Sabriel has to *carefully* examine every inch of him as she doesn’t think he’s a real figurehead, but she’s not really sure what’s going on. WELL SHE SURE KNOWS WHAT’S GOING ON NOW, RIGHT? RIGHT??
  • wink gif

  • Mogget and Touchstone are bound by some sort of spell that stops them from talking about anything useful in detail. I CAN’T REMEMBER THE USEFUL STUFF. It’s kind of frustrating, I understand Sabriel’s pain! It makes me more and more curious.
  • There was this scene that gave me the funniest mental image:

    ‘”I remember,” replied the old man slowly. “Abhorsen came here when I was a young man… I remember that coat you’re wearing… there was a sword also…”‘
    He paused, expectantly. Sabriel stood silently, waiting for him to go on.
    “He wants to see the sword,” Touchstone said, voice flat, after the silence stretched too far.’

    Which meant I had this picture of Sabriel standing there looking like this innocent schoolgirl, big eyes and a little smile on her face as if to encourage the old man to go on, whilst Touchstone has just had enough of her crap and is basically rolling his eyes by this point. An awkward silence passes, crickets chirping in the background whilst Touchstone glares at Sabriel.

  • The bells may be the tool of the Abhorsen, but they don’t always work to Abhorsen’s best interests. They have a life of their own and there are a few occasions where Sabriel has to physically stop them from ringing. It’s pretty creepy…
  • More secrets are revealed, like the fact that Kerrigor is in fact Rogir, the prince of the Old Kingdom – who slaughtered his own mother and sisters. This was the event that Touchstone failed to prevent, just before he was turned into the figurehead – most likely by the Abhorsen.
  • The chapter ended with Sabriel and co finding her father’s frozen body – what will happen next?? I can’t even remember, but I know it’s good!

What did you make of this part of Sabriel? Have you read the book before?

Thoughts

Thoughts #18: Book Amnesia

thoughts_16

Is it just me, or are some books really difficult to remember?

When writing up my thoughts on the first part of Sabriel last week, I realised that despite the book being part of one of my favourite series, all I really remembered was the first half. Past that, I can’t for the life of me remember what happens next. I have the same problem with the next two books: all I remember about Lirael is that it follows either the daughter or granddaughter of Sabriel (see, I don’t even remember that much!), and Abhorsen, err well… I know I enjoyed it. For reasons. That I have forgotten.

Uhhh...

This doesn’t normally happen with favourites. Normally it’s books that I have no strong opinion about.

For example, these two – Matched by Ally Condie and Delirium by Lauren Oliver:

Matched by Ally Condie Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Here’s what I remember about both books:

  • White female teenage protagonist, probably a plain Jane type with ‘mousey’ hair or something
  • LOVE IS BAD! NO FREEDOM! You have to be paired with someone that the government chooses for you in order to *procreate to maximum effect* and produce all the genetically superior babies (gross, and I’m sure this happens in both books??)
  • Protagonist meets HANDSOME BUT MYSTERIOUS YOUNG MAN. Even though she’s only known him for about two days, she realises everything the government has ever told her is a lie and she must REBEL!
  • Love interest is predictable and oh-so-enchanting to our protagonist, but really boring to me
  • The love interest is probably already aware of how rubbish the government is, so he can recruit the protagonist into his ~super secret mission~ or revolutionary group
  • They rebel, or break out, or leave their homes and of course something has to go horribly wrong somewhere down the line

And that’s about it. I’m not sure if these things happen in both (or maybe either…) books, but when I try to remember the plots of either of these, this is what I get. I rated both of these books three stars so I must have enjoyed them at least a little bit. But can I actually remember any fine plot points? Nope.

I think part of the reason is the crazy amount of YA dystopia that has been published over the past few years – many of them are starting to merge into one. However, I can think of another YA dystopia with a similar plot that I also rated three stars – Article 5 by Kristen Simmons – that I remember the story of quite well. Plus it’s obviously not just YA dystopia that gives me book amnesia. Perhaps it depends on what else I’ve recently read? My mood at the time? I really don’t know!

Do you ever have this problem with books? Do you find it worse with a certain genre?

Buddy Read

Bell & Sword: A Sabriel Read-along (Prologue – Chapter 10)

Bell and Sword

As previously discussed, I will be posting my thoughts on Sabriel every Saturday in March. This is not the first time I have read Sabriel, nor is it the second. In fact I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book, and it’s been one of my favourite series for over a decade (same as Paola, which makes both of us feel old). I’ve been meaning to re-read it for a while, so when Paola shared her idea I knew I had to join in. It will certainly be interesting re-reading an old favourite and trying to pick it to pieces!

This post will contain details and possibly spoilers about the events in Sabriel.

My idea was to start off by listing the events I remembered. For all my re-reading, I only really remember the first half of the book, and apparently it’s not all that clear…

Touchstone is NOT a ship, I repeat, Touchstone is NOT a ship. My bad. Regardless, he has now been forever reimagined in my mind.

Touchstone! Duh...

But I digress! Here is what I remembered from the book:
  • The story starts in a boarding school in Ancelstierre, where Sabriel is a prefect. We’re introduced to her necromancy skills when she resurrects the pet rabbit of one of the younger students.
  • A sendling (summoned spirit) appears at her school, sent by her father (the Abhorsen) because he is in trouble.
  • Sabriel journeys north, over the Wall and into the Old Kingdom, where she travels to the Abhorsen’s house.
  • There she meets Mogget, at first appearance a cat – who can talk. He is actually a powerful spirit bound to serve the Abhorsen, kept in control by the bell on his collar, which is a mini version of one of the bells the Abhorsen uses to bind the dead.
  • Sabriel must leave to go and find her father, so she takes a Paperwing (which is basically a giant paper aeroplane), but it crashes into some underground cavern, where she finds a ship. The figurehead (THANK YOU PAOLA) of the ship, in the shape of a man, turns out to be a real person – a man by the name of Touchstone. Not an actual ship.

And that is pretty much where my recollection of the story ends.

So, what did I make of the book this time round?
  • The reader is introduced to necromancy from the very beginning. The Abhorsen saves Sabriel from passing through the gates of death when she is only a baby. I thought this was a great way to open the story – we get to see the extent of the Abhorsen’s power as well as the origins of Sabriel.
  • I would totally rather live in the Old Kingdom than Ancelstierre. It may be full of scary creatures who want to eat your soul, but there’s MAGIC and HISTORY. I would prepare myself for a big adventure and PROBABLY STILL DIE BECAUSE I DON’T REMEMBER THE NAMES OF THE BELLS OFF BY HEART. But I mean, you’ve got to take risks, right?
  • This would be my reaction to every little noise.
  • The Old Kingdom has elements of the early to mid twentieth century. It sort of feels like war-time Britain to me. Sabriel attends a boarding school where ladies are taught etiquette and how to behave in a ladylike fashion. There is a threat to the country and the reinforcements seemed reminiscent of World War I and II: pillboxes, trenches and walls with barbed wire, patrols, bayonets.
  • In fact, the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre feel like an alternate Scotland and England to me, complete with Hadrian’s Wall dividing them. The shape even looks similar on the map. Plus Ancelstierre, Angleterre. I don’t know if this is canon Never mind, I looked it up and it IS an alternate history. You learn something new every day!
  • Sabriel may be smart, but she doesn’t always make good choices. This was my reaction to her going up to Cloven Crest:
  • No!

  • Mogget, despite being something dark and possibly soul-eating, is still an adorable little kitty. And suitably smug. I just want to wait until he’s being all serious and explaining things, and then distract him with a ball of string.
  • When I become Abhorsen (when, not if), I do not want any creepy, faceless sendlings helping me out, thank you very much. Nope. Just nope.
  • Chapter Ten ended with Sabriel and Mogget preparing to leave the Abhorsen’s house. The Mordicant was trying to break in by using slaves and Shadow Hands to get over the river, and our heroine was about to have her first Paperwing ride. Paperwing ALWAYS reminds me of this song by Rise Against, which is not really one I’d consider fitting for the book. But oh well.

What did you make of the first ten chapters of Sabriel? Have you read the book before?

Buddy Read

Bell & Sword: A Sabriel Read-along

Bell and Sword

“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?”

When my lovely friend Paola, one of The Duchesses and also my fellow Queen of Ferelden, told me about her plans for a Sabriel read-along in May I knew I would HAVE to join. Ever since I read the trilogy it has been one of my favourite series ever – a perfect blend of fantasy and familiarity, with a highly original concept.

From today, 10th May, until 31st May, Paola will be hosting a read-along of Sabriel by Garth Nix. The Duchesses blog will feature regularly scheduled posts, which I will also be joining in on, as well as some more spontaneous ones (in the words of Duchess Paola, expect shenanigans). Here is what she has planned:

  • May 10th: Read-Along Kickoff at The Duchesses
  • May 17th: Discussion #1 (Prologue – Chapter 10)
  • May 24th: Discussion #2 (Chapter 11 – 20)
  • May 31st: Discussion #3 (Chapter 21 – Epilogue)

I too will be posting on these days, with my thoughts on the book! It will be interesting to re-read an old favourite and take a different ‘eye’ to it.

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

First published 30th September 1996 by Harper Collins, Sabriel is the first book in a series known as ‘Abhorsen’ or ‘The Old Kingdom’. The other books include Lirael, published 29th April 2001, Abhorsen, published 1st January 2003, and Clariel, which will be published on 14th October 2014. The series also includes a short story published for World Book Day in 2005, entitled The Creature in the Case.

Lirael by Garth Nix Abhorsen by Garth Nix Clariel by Garth Nix

Why am I joining the read-along?

I think I was possibly nine or ten years old when I first read Sabriel, and it had me in its grasp from the very beginning. An amazing heroine? Check. A talking cat? Check. A unique magic system? Check. I felt sorry for all the people who lived in Ancelstierre, who knew nothing of the Old Kingdom and believed all that could be found there was evil. WRONG! So much magic and history. Although I don’t seem to have remembered quite as much as Paola (who can tell you the names of all the bells that Sabriel uses!), I remember the feeling that the book gave me – and it has remained a firm favourite ever since. It is most definitely time for a re-read.

Are you a fan of Sabriel, or are you thinking of reading it for the first time?

If you are interested in joining, you can read more information in Paola’s original post.
Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #4: Magic Systems in Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: magic systems in fantasy.

Magic is a big part of many fantasy books and stories. However, if you’ve read lots of fantasy, you’ll know that it doesn’t always appear in the same way. Sometimes it’s big and showy, sometimes it’s very subtle. Sometimes it’s not even called magic. Today I want to pick out a few examples of magic systems in fiction and talk about them.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

The obvious choice! Magic is the main focus of the Harry Potter series, and it is mostly a simple case of waving a wand and uttering the right words. In the wizarding world, children are taught in the ways of magic from the age of eleven – and in the UK they are taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (if it needs any introduction…). Of course, there are also wordless spells which are trickier to master, plus potions and various other magical aspects. However, in comparison to magic systems in some other books, the one in Harry Potter is very basic. This only makes it even more appealing, and is the cause of millions of children wishing they could go to Hogwarts (yeah I’m still waiting for my letter, twelve years too late). There is something truly… I want to say magical… enthralling about the idea of being able to use magic so simply and easily. I can’t express how, even now, I wish I’d gone to a school that just looked like Hogwarts, let alone taught the same subjects!

In a word: flamboyant.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The magic in Tolkien’s works is a bit more subtle than that in Harry Potter. Although there are wizards, or Istari, we rarely see them actually perform magic. Gandalf’s fireworks obviously involve a little, but we don’t see him using it. He creates a light from his staff in order to guide the Fellowship through the Mines of Moria, and he uses some magic to stop the Balrog from passing over the Bridge of Khazad-dum. In The Hobbit, Gandalf also shows that he is capable of bringing down lightning strikes on foes. However, he does not use magic often and it tends to be more practical. Within the Istari there is a hierarchy: blue, brown, grey, white, with Gandalf progressing from grey to white during the course of The Lord of the Rings. Despite an obvious presence of magic, Tolkien’s world is undeniably magical.

In a word: subtle.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind contains one of my favourite magic systems ever. Magic is called ‘sympathy’, and involves a sacrifice – a bit like alchemy in Fullmetal Alchemist. In order to create, you must give or destroy something. Often it involves the caster’s energy or body heat; somehow this system doesn’t quite feel like magic. It feels more realistic than just whipping up an object out of nowhere.

In a word: scientific.

The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix Lirael by Garth Nix Abhorsen by Garth Nix

One of my favourite series when I was a young teenager, these books contain a very different type of magic: necromancy. As well as this, it’s not wands or staffs that are used, but bells. Unlike in Harry Potter, magic is a rare and difficult thing to use and very, very dangerous. In the case of Sabriel and Lirael, it also runs in the family.

In a word: scary.

Which books do you think feature the best magic systems? Have you ever read about any particularly unusual ones?