One of the main characteristics of the Fantasy genre is the presence of Magic. In fact, it’s the only genre of fiction that embraces the mystery of magic with believable realism and provides us with a range of exploration into magical realms, creatures and beings.
What is Magic?
If we’re going to look at magic in Fantasy, let’s firstly look at what magic is. Almost every culture in the world has recognised Magic at some point, in some basic form. It can be referred to as a source, energy or power that allows the user to do unbelievable feats and tricks. Some describe it as an energy that permeates all natural and living things. How this power may be used and manipulated has been explored many times in fantasy stories.
The type of magic referred to in this post is active magic and not passive magic. Passive magic is the inherit existence of magic that does not have to be acted upon to exist, such as magical creatures or earth magic. Active magic is where focus, attention and control are necessary to undertake a magical act.
Magic in Fantasy
Magic is presented a number of different ways in Fantasy. Some books have a magical system that penetrates the world and has rules that the magic user must abide. The system is clearly explained to the reader and remains consistent throughout the book/series. In other books magic is a little less clear and not fully explain to the reader. This can make the magic seem mysterious and wondrous to readers.
There’s no right or wrong way to present magic in fantasy. It all depends on the what the writer enjoys to write and what the reader enjoys to read. Popular fantasy works have stemmed from both presentations of magic. I really like learning about new magic systems, and some brilliant systems have been written over the years. I don’t have anything against magic that is present as being mysterious but I find that that kind of magic is usually used sparingly. And I always want more!
Magic makes us question
Regardless of what kind of magic is in our favourite Fantasy books, the existence of magic helps us to consider our own needs and wants. What would we do that power? Would we make the same choices if the cost of magic was that? If we were living in that world, what would we do to escape/maintain/change our situation? Would we put a lot of time into studying magic – would it be worth it? How would these decisions affect the ones we love? How would they affect the people we dislike?
Magic and magical worlds make us question our own humanity. We see how the characters connect and interact with their surroundings and question the choices they make. We separate ourselves from the reality we know and consider how we would react if we were in their world or had their powers. Whether the situations are thrilling, harrowing, excruciating, hilarious or saddening, we continue to question ourselves. And that is part of the fun of reading fantasy.
For me the following Fantasy books made me question everything:
- Magician, Raymond E. Feist
- The Stand, Stephen King
- A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
- Voice of the Gods, Trudi Canavan
- Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N. K. Jemisin
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
I know some of these are on my 8 Inspiring Fantasy Books post, but that’s what made them inspiring!
Do you have books that made you question and wonder? If so, share below.
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