Janny Wurts and systems of magic

dekket

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After finishing reading through the deverry series of books by Katherine Kerr, I was pondering how great her "dweomer" system of magic was. A system of magic based that seems to be based on a deep understanding of self, and how that understanding (of oneself) leads to understanding of the wider universe.

But that got me thinking about all the different types of magical systems in all the various fantasy books that I tend to read and re-read, and it dawned on me that Janny Wurts has used more "different" types/systems of magic (in her various series of books) than any other author that I can think of.

From her Wars of Light and Shadows Series, she has so far revealed the following:

The Dreams of the Great Drakes - the dreams of dragons can create and bind, but can also unravel reality.

The Law of Major Balance - which is a system of asking/granting permissions, and is used by the Fellowship of Seven and their spellbinders, Ath's adepts, and the Paravian races, but each of these could even be considered separately.

Elemental Mastery - control of elemental shadow (by Arithon s'Ffalenn) or elemental light (by Lysaer s'Illesid).

Korianthian teachings - the use of (non-atheran) crystals and forced dominion by the Koriani witches.

Necromancy - dominion of the spirits of the dead, used by the three necromancy cults, the only one so far revealed being the Grey Kralovir.

The Biedar rites - the so far mysterious teaching of the Biedar tribes of the Sanpashir desert, which when stolen evolved into both the arts of the Koriani, and necromancy.

Masterbards - can use music/sound to affect huge changes.

The arts of the hedge witches - mainly charms and potions, minor wardings and the like.

and I have probably missed a few.

In the Cycle of Fire trilogy, there were:

Sathid mastery - binding with sentient crystals, granted by the Vaere to the likes of Ivan Firelord and Anskiere Stormwarden.

The powers of the gierj and Morrigierj.

The pyschic abilities of the other "Demon" races.

The reality bending arts of the Mhored Kara wizards.


In the Empire Trilogy, in collaboration with Raymond E Feist, there were:

The magic of the Greater Path - used by the Great Ones of the Assembly.

The magic of the Lesser Path - used by lesser path magicians to make artifacts for the Great Ones.

Priestly magic - granted by the gods to the twenty different orders of priests and priestesses.

Cho-ja magic - bred into the insect-like Cho-ja magicians of Chakaha.

Thuril magic - used by the magicians of thuril, lead by the Kaliane in the enchanted city of Dorales.

This all adds up to a lot of different types/kinds of magic (and this is just from the Janny Wurts books that I own).


My question is this, can anyone think of another author that has used more systems of magic in their works?
 

chrispenycate

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Mercedes Lackey has a good number, but they tend to be one or two per series; she's just written an awful lot of different series (Valdemar has three, Two different (human and Elvish, but perhaps the dragons and fox spirits are separate too) in the SERRAted books, elemental masters, the Obsidian trilogy with its system of debts and demons, can't remember the magic in "Joust", the Diana Tregarde witch balance…
And all clearly specified as regards power sources and limitations.
 

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My favorite magic system uses the arcania of physics and chemistry to allow lighting a dark room with the wave of a hand and enabling the average (non initiate) person to fly at high speeds over long distances (along with many other feats).

Many of the literary systems seem to rely on the power of the mind to influence (distort) physical laws, deals with demons, possession of an object of power or knowledge of a true name to give one power over that thing.

I did like Token's use of the Shamanistic death and rebirth (Gandalf) as a means to enhance/gain magical power (based on real world Shamanism).

Tom Deitz has also used historic belief systems as a basis for some of his books (regarding second sight, the Sidhe and Native American mythology, witchcraft and wizardry).

Andre Norton seems to be well thought of by some Wicans for her references to magic (Witchworld series of books).

Zelazny has actually been referenced in fringe literature about magic visualization (The Changeling/Madwand).

Enjoy!
 

Clansman

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Systems of magic, and how they are used, are vital to the "SOB" while reading fantasy. For instance, in reading Tolkien, the use of magic is not overt by anyone except Gandalf. All other use of magic in that story appears to be inherent to the creature (such as an elf or the Witch-King). There are magical things, but these tend to be based on the inherent magic in the creatures that created them (such as the elven sword Glamdring carried by Gandalf, or the rings of power, etc.).

If the system is overly simplistic, then the book, at least to me, appears to be juvenile. For example, David Eddings' "Will and the Word" from The Belgariad and The Malloreon was just a little too simple. You have the power, gather you will, say the word, and presto! instant sorcerer.

Robert Jordan's True Source (with male and female halves) is a step above this. It provides for training (apparently Rand is a prodigy who can figure it out on his own) and for dire consequences for doing it wrong. Beyond that, though, the system seems too simple, and too much of a deux et machina.

I have long been fascinated by Wurts' Law of the Major Balance. Everything in creation, including rocks, has some kind of sentience that is the basis of this system. On one occasion, Dakar, the not-so-dedicated apprentice, is told by Asandir (F7 sorcerer) that stones "appreciate politeness" when asking their permission. For instance, a sorcerer asking a deer to lay down its life that some rather important humans might eat. This implies that the spirit of the deer is capable of understanding the importance of the request, and capable of simply saying no. This being said, I don't think that the F7 ever ask if they think they will be refused, as I have not seen it happen in the series so far.

The Koriani enchantresses (I call 'em the Twisted Sisters) use a system that is completely at odds with the LotMB. They use non-native crystals and compel things to do what they want. However, this system can be defeated IF the earth is given knowledge of the crystal (such as what Sethvir (another F7 sorcerer) did with the Great Waystone). This system is also reminiscent of the system used in Cycle of Fire, but it is also very unethical, due to the coercive nature of compelling something to do something it would not ordinarily do. The Koriani also use the dire circumstances of individuals to create a debt system that would make the meanest loan shark blush. The Koriani simply compel payment when they want it.
 
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Taltos

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In the Empire Trilogy, in collaboration with Raymond E Feist, there were:

Just wanted to point out that magic systems in Empire trilogy are from Feist earlier works, so they don't have anything to do with Wurts.

So you are saying that she is an author who has created 2 separate magic systems ... I think there is plenty of authors who have managed as many.
 

Clansman

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Dekket actually cites several systems of magic above. I focussed on two. Of the ones that Dekket cites, that of the Beidar, the Koriani, and the necromancers could be put in the same family, but the rest stand as distinct from each other. Even with this lumping together, I count six different systems. And Dekket missed the magic of the three Paravian races, so that makes seven. To be fair, the Paravian is not overtly present in the story, and we don't see any of the drake magic, let alone a live dragon... ah, but that would be telling. Read Stormed Fortress.

The ones that we see the most of in The Wars of Light and Shadow are the LotMB and the sigil binding magic through crystals of the Koriani. There is more and more musical Masterbard magic, which I find to be a really neat theme in fantasy that stretches back thousands of years. Magic created by song, which has a certain amount of truth in the real world anyway. Think of the Sirens in the Iliad.

However, Dekket, other authors have similarly balanced different systems of magic. Wurts juggles more of them than most, which creates a complexity which I really crave in fantasy, but that many others who prefer lighter, faster-paced fare have found to be cumbersome. I just can't think of any of these other authors right at the moment, but I know they exist.

Taltos, can you provide some examples, and be specific? I have a bit of a brain cramp at the moment.
 

Cerigwen

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You know, I think that mathematics has a lot to do with the magic put out by the Fellowship of Seven. They were all scientists before they helped destroy their home planet and when Sethvir was laid low, he was scribbling cipher after cipher to keep the grimwards stable. I believe mathematical equations are involved somehow.
 

dekket

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taltos
Just wanted to point out that magic systems in Empire trilogy are from Feist earlier works, so they don't have anything to do with Wurts.

Taltos,
the magic systems (and other things) in Riftwar trilogy (i.e. the earliest works of Feist) were taken from the Midkemia world setting of the "Friday Nighters", a role playing group that included Feist was a member, some of whom went on the found Midkemia Press (which produces Fantasy Role playing modules set in Midkemia).
Raymond E. Feist did a wonderful job in fleshing out the word, refining the details, and turning a role playing game into a brilliant novel (Magician is one of my favourites).
But by your reasoning, because the magic systems are from earlier works (i.e. were being used by the Friday Nighters before Ray joined the group), you wouldn't be able to claim that the Greater and Lesser paths of magic are anything to do with Feist.
Which I would never do. Feist took an earlier stage of developement of the Greater and Lesser paths, and developed it into a workable system of magic in his novels.
This system of magic was developed further by both Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts (in collaboration) in the Empire Trilogy. Which is why I included it on my list.

But this is all a bit beside the point, considering that my question was whether anyone could think of other authors that use more systems of magic in their works, it would have been helpful if you had listed some of the authors you know about who do.
Then I can take your recommendations and go of a read some of them. Perhaps expand the pool of authors that I read. I could use the help, as I am about to finish re-reading the works of Katherine Kerr for the upteenth time (not that I mind, she is a great author, and I whole heartedly recommend the Deverry Cycle).

For some reason I was under the impression that this forum was about discussing/recommending authors, rather than pointing our flaws in the posts of others, however I am still quite new to the whole forum/posting experience.

Clansman, I had actually just lumped the Paravians under the Law of Major Balance, but I thought I had pointed out that you could have looked at them separately. It was probably sloppy of me. I haven't seen enough of Paravian "magic" yet make up my mind how to clasify it. Actually lately I have been thinking that the powers of Athera's masterbard and the ancient workings of the Paravians seem to have very much in common. I cant quite remember, is it the sunchildren who sang their enchantments over the 12 swords of Isaer?

Cerigwen, I feel that each of the Fellowship seem to actuate their workings differently. Sethvir does seem to use ciphers in his workings (as you could expect of a former chief scientist - or whatever it turns out he was). However Davien doesn't seem to be very mathematical about his workings, more intuitive and artistic perhaps.
But that could perhaps just be their different styles of physics, which has translated into different approaches of magic.
But a good point, and you may well be right. I do always think of "String Theory" with its different levels of vibrations, alternate dimension, etc, everytime there is a major working by the Fellowship.

Is there a post anywhere on this site yet comparing magic to quantum physics?
 

Cerigwen

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good point about Davien. It might depend on style. Although I believe the Koriani also use a blend of equasions and intuition.
 

dekket

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Cerigwen,

I have never really pictured Koriani spellcraft as either intuitive or using equations. There seems to be a lot of Sigils (symbols representing/enacting bindings of something or domination over something) or lots of chanting of enchantments (the constant repeating of a spell over and over seems to be the equivalent of an engraved or written symbol, but is limited by the endurance of the circle of sisters doing the casting/chanting). It also seems very formalised, with different levels of initiative knowledge.
While those with Foundational training (i.e. spellbinders such as Dakar, or those trained by the mages of Rauven, or even the Mistwraith) may expand on their current knowledge and extrapolate a more complicated/difficult/alternate use for it, it would seem that the Koriani can only use the spells that they have been taught.
I have yet to come across a Koriani witch who has been able to use a spell/power of a higher level.
A 5th level initiate can only use 5th level knowledge and below. To be able to do "higher" magic, they need to be taught by a higher level initiate and pass the next stage of rights.
This is the whole problem with the succession to prime power. Only an 8th level initiate who has been trained to succession (i.e. in 9th level spells, for want of a better term) by the Prime (the only 9th level initiate) can attempt to master the Waystone and assume prime control.
If the Prime dies before before successfully training up a successor, the knowledge dies with her, and would be unable to be rediscovered.
That was Morriel's problem, with Lirenda the only remaining 8th level initiate.
There also seems to be a certain level to which each sister can ascend, which is determined when they swear to the order. Hence some sisters only have the ability of the grey robes, others have the talent of ranked purple, but perhaps only to the 5th level and so on.
Koriani abilities seem very rigid and fixed, the very opposite to intuitive.
But that could just be my take on things. I may have missed things that you have picked up on.
Perhaps it is time for another re-read of the series.
 

Taltos

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Taltos,
the magic systems (and other things) in Riftwar trilogy (i.e. the earliest works of Feist) were taken from the Midkemia world setting of the "Friday Nighters", a role playing group that included Feist was a member, some of whom went on the found Midkemia Press (which produces Fantasy Role playing modules set in Midkemia).

Doesn't change my point - "system" was developed earlier. If I'd want to make a hyperbole out of your statement - anyone who has written D&D, Dragonlance etc. series has invented that magic system. Can I interpret your statement in this way, at least to me it seems so.

My only point was that Wurtz didn't develop the Empire systems - she was just using something that was already there - but this brings us back to the original statement - that yes she has used it :D

But this is all a bit beside the point, considering that my question was whether anyone could think of other authors that use more systems of magic in their works, it would have been helpful if you had listed some of the authors you know about who do.

When I thought a bit more about it - can't recall any writer who had put so many systems into one book, at least none that you would know :cool: (if you want I can name at least one Russian author).

Can't comment on these books - haven't read them - but usually one magic system (in books) tends to be a part of bigger system\picture - the way you have described them it seems that we'd have at least 4 different magic systems in books which talk about elemental magics + usual priestly magic and necromancy.

Then I can take your recommendations and go of a read some of them. Perhaps expand the pool of authors that I read. I could use the help, as I am about to finish re-reading the works of Katherine Kerr for the upteenth time (not that I mind, she is a great author, and I whole heartedly recommend the Deverry Cycle).
If you are only interested in complicated magic systems - I can't help you thats not why I read fantasy and what I distinctly recall - maybe Steven Erikson Malazan - there were at least 3 to 4 different systems IIRC. Also Glen Cook - but he has one system per book\serie but has at least four distinctive series. Also I think local fantasy recommendations section should have books for all tastes.

For some reason I was under the impression that this forum was about discussing/recommending authors, rather than pointing our flaws in the posts of others, however I am still quite new to the whole forum/posting experience.
And I only pointed out a little factual difference - nothing malicious meant.
 

dekket

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Taltos,

No worries, perhaps I just read the post wrong, or was in a bad mood, or whatever.
Perhaps will put it down to a miscommunication, I was thinking/talking about "used" and perhaps "modified", you were talking about "invented/created".

And this post only started off as an idle thought, I am interested in Fantasy more than just for complicated magical systems.

I will try the authors you suggested, and who were the Russian ones, by the by?
 

Taltos

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No worries, perhaps I just read the post wrong, or was in a bad mood, or whatever.
Perhaps will put it down to a miscommunication, I was thinking/talking about "used" and perhaps "modified", you were talking about "invented/created".

I had the same revelation, when I re-read your first message, before writing the second reply. You wrote "Using" I read "creating" - makes all the difference.

I will try the authors you suggested, and who were the Russian ones, by the by?

Nik Perumov is one author who puts different systems into one book. One of his books has been published in English - Lords of terror is co-written with Allen Cole - a quasy SF-Fantasy mix-up - sadly, not one of his best.
 

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(Possible minor Spoiler material for Janny Wurts' Traitors Knot contained herein)

dekket and Taltos,

Agree with points about Koriani needing to be trained up, but it makes one wonder how they ever developed a Prime in the first place! If memory serves, that first Prime's memories are in the Waystone somewhere. Maybe this nuance will surface in a future sub-plot!


Regarding systems of magic, I always thought that Zelazny's 2 Amber Series had the most interesting pair (at least, of what I've read thusfar, and while I won't claim expertise, I'm no SciFi/Fantasy novice, either!) in the Pattern and the Logrus (sic). This whole spin on Order and Chaos, coupled with Zelazny's masterful style and almost unique ability to push words beyond their normal boundaries, made for excellent reading. On this topic, I've been trying to think of anything quite like the Shadowwalk ability that is the birthright of Amberites (and denizens of Chaos too, now that I think about it), but other than some of the dimension spanning capabilities Moorcock portrayed Elric, Corum and other manifestations of the Eternal Champion as having (or occasionally having, perhaps), I'm drawing blanks here. Even Moorcock's characters never actually "paint" their desired environment quite like Zelazny's walks thru Shadow.
 

dekket

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Grimward,

I presume that the order will have fossilised a bit since arriving on Athera, as the Compact will have halted any further experimentation. There would have been no increase in the net powers of the Koriani order since they made landfall.
Thus new initiates could only learn what they could be taught by older, wiser, higher circles.
As for the original development of the Prime, it could be proposed that the Prime (or Grand Mistress/First Lady/President/whatever she would have been called back then) would have been the head of the order back before the Koriani discovered/learnt magic, out in the star-faring society of humanity, before it collapsed entirely. If the order was already set up with the multiple levels of initiation (similar to the Masons, perhaps) then it would be only natural that the head of the order would hoard the most secretes, including magic. The next level down would know slightly less, and so forth, all the way down to the novices knowing the bare minimum to be able to operate.

And I wonder if it is just the Prime's memories that are stored in the Waystone? Perhaps more than an Iyat is stored within?

I will have to pull out Zelazny again, as I can't quite remember how the Shadowwalk ability works.

Doesn't help that Shades in the Forgotten Realms novels have an ability that is called Shadowwalking, where they can jump from one shadow to any other (by passing through the elemental plane of Shadow).

Will re-read Amber series and ponder what is similar.
 

Grimward

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Haven't actually read any of the Forgotten Realms stuff (which, given it's perpetual residence on paperback shelves here in the States, seems a little amazing). First impetus was to 'splain some more about Zelazny's shadows/shadow-walking, but considering the topic further, I would never do something that could keep someone from reading Zelazny again! :D;)
 

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If the order was already set up with the multiple levels of initiation (similar to the Masons, perhaps) then it would be only natural that the head of the order would hoard the most secretes, including magic. The next level down would know slightly less, and so forth, all the way down to the novices knowing the bare minimum to be able to operate.

This makes me wonder about Koriathain origins. Are they the descendent of a female version of the Masons (which now exist, I understand), or of a woman-only group based on Dianetics and Scientology? The structure of the guarding of the knowledge appears similar.
 

dekket

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I tend to picture the order more along the lines of a female version of the Knight Templar - an order set up with a public stated objective (to bring Compasion and Mercy in the case of the sisterhood/to protect pilgrims in the holy land in the case of the Templars) but who really have - or perhaps develop - another agenda.
They rise to be incrediably powerful for a time, but circumstances have brought them low (or at least lower than the rightful place the sisterhood believes that they should be in).

However, I would find it very amusing if they turn out to be the ultimate evolution of the mergin of Scientology and the girl scouts.
 

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However, I would find it very amusing if they turn out to be the ultimate evolution of the mergin of Scientology and the girl scouts.


Hehehe!

I kind of think of them like the Bene Gesserit from Dune, Dek, although without the alien characteristics and packing quartz crystals!
 

dekket

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The Bene Gesserit actually were "good guys" though, even if most people feared/misunderstood them. And they were a sisterhood that was entirely self aware, of body and mind. There abilities were all derived from self-discipline and awareness.
The Koriani most definately aren't the "good guys", and are lacking awareness. All their arts are (so far/apparantly) derived from forced compulsions and are layered in deception.
 

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