The best fantasy book series that feature a well-structured magic system

Why am I passionate about this?

In today’s world we have unprecedented access to knowledge and science. We are increasingly unsatisfied with seemingly impossible things that have no plausible explanation. Speculative fiction is known for asking one simple question “What If?” Science fiction leans toward scenarios that might be possible, whereas fantasy dwells in the world of the impossible. In early fantasy writing we would read about impossible things, and the author would wave it away with a simple “It’s just magic – don’t think about it.” Modern audiences want more. Hard fantasy (where magic systems have a logical and rules-based premise) dares not only to ask “what if” but also suggests “here’s how.”

I wrote...

Rise of the Red Hand

By Jason Lancour,

Book cover of Rise of the Red Hand

What is my book about?

Lena Sullivan is a blade for hire making her way (as best as she can) in an unfriendly world of mercenaries, violence, blood, and betrayal. Working to put a difficult past behind her, she leads a solitary life with no permanent home and no prospects for the future. When she lands a high-paying contract to work as a bodyguard for an elderly history professor, the job seemed too good to be true. It was.

Rise of the Red Hand is the first book in a series that explores a world steeped in magic, history, and complex societies. A diverse cast of characters is drawn into a conflict that threatens to plunge the continent into chaos, oppression, and war.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Eye of the World

Jason Lancour Why did I love this book?

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is the very definition of sprawling epic, the entire story spanning fourteen volumes. While it is steeped in a number of thematic elements that may, from modern perspective, be seen as tropes, the intricate design of the magic system in the books is undeniable. 

The system is described over time through the series with such nuance that the reader can begin to have a very clear notion of what is and is not possible, and feel an understanding of how things are done, almost as if we the readers are versed in the topic. Jordan accomplishes this without excessive info-dumping or the need for a character to attend a magic school so it can all be explained cleanly.

By Robert Jordan,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Eye of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When a vicious band of half-men, half beasts invade the Two Rivers seeking their master's enemy, Moiraine persuades Rand al'Thor and his friends to leave their home and enter a larger unimaginable world filled with dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light .

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel…

Book cover of Mistborn

Jason Lancour Why did I love this book?

Brandon Sanderson is known for his detailed and unique systems of magic across his many series of novels, such that a significant body of writing by third parties has been dedicated toward trying to describe them all.

In the Mistborn series, he creates a system unlike anything I’ve seen before. A full understanding is best gained by reading the books, but in short, the magic in Mistborn, known as Allomancy, involves ingesting certain metals to gain very specific effects by “burning” them. The powers and limits of each are well-defined and balanced, and the reader can very quickly begin to understand how a practitioner of said magic can achieve certain effects. It’s a truly unique take on magic and Sanderson does a masterful job of showing you without lecturing.

By Brandon Sanderson,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Mistborn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brandon Sanderson - the international phenomenon who finished the Wheel of Time sequence - introduces a fantasy trilogy which overturns the expectations of readers and goes on to tell the epic story of evil overturned in a richly imagined world.

A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash…

Book cover of The Name of the Wind

Jason Lancour Why did I love this book?

In The Kingkiller Chronicles, Patrick Rothfuss takes us on a journey through the life of its main character, (Kvothe) in parallel timelines each hinting at events in the other, and the craftsmanship is truly masterful. It’s a well-written epic that is both character and plot-driven, existing in a rich world of culture, history, and, of course, magic. 

As we follow Kvothe, we are exposed to a system of magics wielded by human society known as Archanists, the disciplines of which are divided into several branches and are pursued with an almost scientific methodology. We also gain a glimpse into the more mystical arts of the Fae people. These arts are seamlessly woven into the narrative delivering a story that is as captivating as it is unique.

By Patrick Rothfuss,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Name of the Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The lyrical fantasy masterpiece about stories, legends and how they change the world. The Name of the Wind is an absolute must-read for any fan of fantasy fiction.

'This is a magnificent book' Anne McCaffrey

'I was reminded of Ursula K. Le Guin, George R. R. Martin, and J. R. R. Tolkein, but never felt that Rothfuss was imitating anyone' THE TIMES

'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University…

Book cover of Master of the Five Magics

Jason Lancour Why did I love this book?

Master of the Five Magics delivers exactly what the title suggests. Hardy creates not only one, but five distinct and well-thought-out systems of magic. Each discipline is different from the next in practice, application, and style. The mechanics of how each of the systems functions is logical, precise, and adheres to a well-planned set of rules. The reader explores the world of magics through immersive storytelling and the reader can enjoy the journey without the perception of having attended a university course on the subject material.

The trilogy is seen as ahead of its time and is often credited as having influenced later authors as they explored the subject of magic in fantasy in their own writings.

By Lyndon Hardy,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Master of the Five Magics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vendora, the crafty queen under siege in a castle that had never fallen.

Alodar, the mere journeyman, learning the least of the five crafts of magic.

He had no right to aspire for her hand --- but aspire he did!

Wizards, sorcerers, dragons, castles, and more!

Alodar's quest takes him from one magical craft to another—each with its own distinct powers and pitfalls. Aided by a mysterious eye from deep within the earth, at a college for magicians, he discovers the secret lying behind the hypnotic flicker of common flame.

Volume 1 of the Magic by the Numbers series


Book cover of The Magic of Recluce

Jason Lancour Why did I love this book?

The Saga of Recluse by L.E. Modesitt Jr. is a massive series of twenty interconnected novels that span centuries of its world’s history. The author recommends reading the series in order of publication, so we begin with The Magic of Recluse. In this novel we see a world in which the use of the two opposing disciplines of magic, known as Order and Chaos, are woven into the very fabric of society. As the story unfolds we see how Modesitt has carefully crafted each system, pausing to flesh out the societal implications of such. In the world of Recluse, we see magic integrated into society in a way that shows careful world building beside detailed rules of magic. Superb storytelling makes the world a joy to explore.

By L.E. Modesitt, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Magic of Recluce as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Magic of Recluce launched a bestselling epic fantasy world that now spans multiple volumes.

Young Lerris yearns to find a place in the world better suited to his skills and temperament. In Recluce this means taking one of two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond. Many do not survive.

Lerris chooses dangergeld.

Lerris will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked, and he must learn to use his powers in an orderly way before his wanderjahr, or fall prey to Chaos.

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By FX Holden,

Book cover of Aggressor

FX Holden Author Of Aggressor

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former journalist and intelligence officer turned writer, so I seek out authenticity in my reading, especially when it comes to war stories. I look for fiction from people who have been there or know how to listen to those who have, and be their voice. When I write, I always put together a team of veterans and specialists in their fields to challenge my work and make sure I get it right, too!

FX's book list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet

What is my book about?

It is April 1st, 2038. Day 60 of China's blockade of the rebel island of Taiwan. The US government has agreed to provide Taiwan with a weapons system so advanced, it can disrupt the balance of power in the region. But what pilot would be crazy enough to run the Chinese blockade to deliver it?

Aggressor is the first novel in a gripping action series about a future war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and aviators on all sides. Featuring technologies that are on the drawing board today and could be fielded in the near future, Aggressor is the page-turning military technothriller you have been waiting for!

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