To Magic or Not to Magic ?

Shanghai: The City of Dreams :Part 1
June 13, 2019

The History behind magic

The early signs of magic were rooted in traditional mythologies from ancient civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians where priests performed magical rites as was done by Dedi in 2700BC. Another Egyptian, the Atlantean Priest Thoth also conjured the Emerald Tablet that was said to hold the cornerstone of the practice of magic and sorcery that was later developed by Hermes Trismegistus and eventually made popular by Nicholas Flamel and the Philosopher’s Stone, an artefact that is rumoured to be able to convert any base metal such as mercury to gold. The story would have been made popular through the big screen in the Harry Potter Series and the French film As above So below.

Isn’t the real question ‘why do people love magic?’, I mean, really. Is it the allure of becoming a supernatural being or is it just more fun to be able to command the elements and fly through the air as if the laws of gravity did not apply to us. Perhaps it is that promise, a promise of control over the natural environment that allows us to flirt with a celestial power that we as humans could scarcely understand. Still, there is something fascinating being able to fly on broomsticks or summon mythical creatures and dragons from our moulded imaginaria while bringing thunderstorms and flames to our foes, it is true that magic is naturally something that allows us to still believe in the unconquered.

Top magical fiction series and similar

Few can argue that there is not many pieces of art that have successfully brought the conversation of magic into the modern world than the Harry Potter Series. Witches, wizards, owls, mythical creatures , wands, charms and horcruxes are but a few of the ingredients that made every young adult’s fantasy imagination grow into something that many could not predict.

This series is one that would be characterised as high magic and low fantasy. It is true that naturally one would gravitate to other high magic series such as the Bartimeaus Trilogy, The Alchemyst, The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, Percy Jackson and the Magicians to name a few.

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I recently read a fantastic high magic series called Echo North that was centred around a little girl(Echo) and a Wolf that pursued adventures through a magic library of mirrors that played live stories in a house that was bound together by thread. Indeed, the levels of silliness in high magic series tend to be astronomical, but it is in that very heights that the nectar of wonder and joy lie for avid fantasy fiction fans.

However, some authors tend to have a rival perspective such as the famous George RR Martin (GRRM), the writer behind the worldwide phenomenon, A Song of Ice and Fire.

But why would someone want to read a low magic series?

Some readers tend to find that the magic in these series, while well-crafted, take from the story and the character development thus witling out the effect of a truly epic series. I myself could understand this perspective as GRRM does a wonderful job of developing fantastically deep characters who wear their personalities as their true strength rather than the use fictional magic to get an upper hand on their opponents. But, wouldn’t the converse also be true?

I personally would not be able to picture a Game of Thrones series without the fire breathing Targaryan dragons and undead white walker, but I suppose outside of this, the magical facets of the series was in fact kept to a minimum. Low magic series tend to depend greatly on the settings and scenery along with intense plot twists that saunter along with the evolutions of the character’s personality traits. The First Law Series by Abercrombie, Conan the Barbarian, Dragons bane and The Goblin Emperor all fall into this category and fulfil the standard of being household fantasy pieces for the avid reader. Perhaps some of the most noteworthy fantasy books tend to be a little more difficult to classify such as the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. The both could be considered high magic series but still give a sense of epic adventure and focuses on the growth of characters throughout the journey which places the novels in a slightly different but unique context.

There are other fiction fantasy subgenres that tend to be a hybrid between the magic and fantasy realms such as ‘Sword and Sorcery’ which tends to focus on a single character in a low fantasy environment usually in the medieval space such as the Mists of Avalon, the Winter King and the Fall of Arthur. ‘Magical Realism’ essentially has high magic elements in an ordinary world partnered with an epic adventure that will occur over several books such the Harry Potter series. I myself prefer this genre, but partnered with a foreign world and magical elements of fictional laws of Physics in a detailed fictional land filled with mythical creatures and races borne of human mythologies. Ogres, Lycans, Owlursus, Rocs, Dragons, Leviathans, dwarfs and elves all fall into a naturally crafted high magic epic series that boasts not only physical magic summoned through spells and charms, but also elemental magic borne through the grace of Titan Gods from a far off land.

Yes, a truly satisfying, high magic epic tale to be told over several books, multiple mythologies and foreign fantasy lands steeped in magical realism and warped space-time concepts sounds like a wonderful experience to be had.

Who knows, maybe someday, I’ll seek to bring these concepts to life. 

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