Magic-users. Those who have magical powers and/or practice the often deadly art of magic. Hello and welcome back to this two-part FANTASY FRIDAYS post! Before you proceed any further, I highly recommend you read the first half of this discussion but, well, ultimately that’s up to you.
As I mentioned last week, I have spent the last month or so developing the system of “magic” and “magic-users” for my WIP epic fantasy series Graceborn. It’s really got me thinking about the diversity of magical systems found in fantasy novels today…hence this post.
In Magic & magic-users in high fantasy – Part 1, I explored ten different types of human-centric magic found in ten well-known high fantasy series (okay, nine—mine isn’t well-known). Today, I will discuss the magic-users who actually practice these forms of magic. I hope you enjoy the content as much as I enjoyed creating it, and please tell me all about your favourite magic-user(s) or the ones in your WIP fantasy series!!
Again, yes, I had to start with an example from my WIP fantasy series. In Graceborn, the magic users, capable of influencing the world’s Grace, are known as Graceborn (like the name suggests). There are two key types of Graceborn: Weavers, who can physically manipulate Grace, converting or “weaving” it between its elemental forms; and Adepts, who are in turn influenced by Grace, which endows them with psionic abilities. Adepts can then be categorised even further depending on their specific ability (e.g. someone who is telepathic is called a Telepath).
In Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga, the men and women capable of accessing and using the One Power are known as channelers. Channelers are not born equal. Some are able to handle more of the Power than others, and some are born with “the spark”, an innate inclination that will lead them to touch the True Source whether they want to or not. Most channelers are trained to become Aes Sedai (meaning “servants of all” in the Old Tongue), who in times gone by were scientists, healers and philosophers, but serve a different purpose in the modern age. Unfortunately, all male channelers eventually go mad due to the taint on saidin, the male half of One Power.
The Kingkiller Chronicle‘s naming system for its “magic”-users is fairly straightforward: those who practice sympathy are known as sympathists, those who practice artificing are known as artificers, and those who practice Naming are known as Namers. These are collectively referred to as arcanists, though this term is more often ascribed to those who have successfully passed through the University’s Arcanum. Students of the Arcanum are known as E’lir (“see-er”), followed by Re’lar (“speaker”), then El’the (meaning yet to be revealed!), before being granted the full rank of arcanist.
There are three key types of magic users in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. An Allomancer is someone who is capable of Allomancy, further broken down into Mistings, who can use only one of the Allomantic metals, and Mistborn, who can use them all. Those capable of Feruchemy are known as Feruchemists, and are generally of Terris descent. Hemalurgists practice Hemalurgy, which in turn bestows power to a number of different groups/specials including Steel Inquisitors, kandra, and koloss.
There is no formal or official terminology for magic users in Richard Morgan’s sword-and-planet-style dark fantasy trilogy A Land Fit For Heroes because, as previously described, there is no widely recognised or accepted magic system. The societies and people within these novels are generally a superstitious and rather religious lot, and any dabbling in otherworldly powers is frowned upon. Therefore, those believed to use magic—let alone those who actually practice the ikinri’ska—are generally referred to as black mage or sorcerer etc.
The main, or at least the most common, type of magic-users in The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington are known as the Gifted. Gifted are said to have a “Reserve” of Essence that they can draw upon and yield as they see fit, though they are currently bound by a set of Tenets that restrict this use. The second type of magic-users are called Augurs, who use kan to read and control minds, manipulate time, and see inevitable future events. There are only ever twelve Augurs alive at once, all of who were (supposedly) killed twenty years ago.
Alison Croggon’s Books of Pellinor centre around people known as Bards, who have the Gift and can wield the Speech to its full extent. A Bard’s power usually presents itself sometime in childhood, after which the skill must be learned and developed just like any other. Individual Bards have differing levels of power, but all age slower than regular humans can live three times as long. Occasionally, Bards become corrupted by evil forces, at which point they become known as Hulls.
Grishaverse / Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels feature magic-users called Grisha, who practice the Small Science. Grisha are separated into three different orders, each of which can be further divided into specialised types. Corporalki (a.k.a. The Order of the Living and the Dead) are Grisha whose power focuses on the human body. Etheralki (a.k.a. The Order of Summoners) can manipulate physical elements such as air pressure, flammable gases, and temperature. Materialki (a.k.a. The Order of Fabrikators) deal with a variety of materials including steel, textiles, glass, powders and poisons.
In the extensive Tortall books by Tamora Pierce (did I mention 5+ series?), human magic-users are simply called mages. This term is generally attributed to those who have the Gift, the “all-purpose” ability most prevalent in this universe, although those who have the Sight are sometimes also referred to as a mage. Perhaps surprisingly, those who practice wild magic do not seem to be known as wild mages, with the exception of the main character of the Immortals quartet.
Finally, I draw your attention to Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle where magic users, in general, are actually called magic users. Technically, a magic user is simply any organism that can use magic. Humans born with the natural ability to actively manipulate magic are known as magicians or spellcasters, and those with weaker abilities are called witches or wizards. Those who can use magic due to their bond with a dragon are known as Dragon Riders or Shur’tugal.
This is just a very small selection of some of the more well-known magic-users scattered throughout modern high fantasy novels. I hope you’ve enjoyed this segment, and if you haven’t already, check out Magic & magic-users in high fantasy – Part 1 to learn about the types of magic that correspond to these magic-users!
Who is your favourite magic-user from a high fantasy novel? What are your thoughts on those described above? Tell me about the magic-users you’ve created for your own WIP!