The best books about magicians

29 authors have picked their favorite books about magicians and why they recommend each book.

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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

By Susanna Clarke,

Book cover of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

This captures more of the alternate history aspect of the genre than my other recommendations, it feels more grounded in a sense, written in the style of 19th Century novels to invoke the time period in the best way. 

Here magic is widely acknowledged, having been common in the past but is now with limited practitioners, namely the title characters. It is a fascinating exploration of how differently recent history would have gone under the influence of magic, and how those who wield it would have been viewed in society.

It bridges my love of historical fiction and fantasy, blending both into an intriguing experience where, no matter the liberties the story takes with logic and fact, you can almost say ‘This could have happened.’


Who am I?

I am Lucy Tempest, an bicultural author that puts my love of history, culture and folklore into creating vivid, expanded adaptations of tales that stood the test of time. I adore stories either set in our own recent past or are similar to them in set-up, finding them full of interesting opportunities, not just in world-building but aesthetics as well, that Medieval-fantasy lacks. Gaslamp fantasy is a Goldilocks setting, detached enough from our modern world, but with enough crucial traits to be familiar. I can read about the magical adventures of pseudo-industrial people without worrying about how they survive without indoor plumbing!


I wrote...

Thief of Cahraman: A Retelling of Aladdin

By Lucy Tempest,

Book cover of Thief of Cahraman: A Retelling of Aladdin

What is my book about?

Thief of Cahraman, first of a trilogy, is an expanded, gender-bent and culturally rich adaptation of Aladdin starring a small-time thief who is plucked from her isolated island to the desert Kingdom of Cahraman and blackmailed into a palace heist to steal a golden lamp. She infiltrates a bridal contest set for the mysterious crown prince, has to go through trials with ever-increasing stakes to buy herself time and finds herself in a comedy-of-errors style romance. As their fates further intertwine, Ada and Cyrus uncover grave secrets about the past along their winding path, exploring and breaking the cycle of dark magic, conflict and politics they were born into.

Magician

By Raymond E. Feist,

Book cover of Magician: Apprentice

Magician: Apprentice is the gateway to Feist’s fantastic Midkemia, a world of heroes, magic, monsters, and political intrigue. In a remote corner of the Kingdom, orphan Pug struggles to learn magic. After saving the duke’s daughter, Pug joins the court, which is where the story takes an unexpected twist. The Kingdom comes under attack by invaders from another world. Pug and his friend Tomas become embroiled in the struggle, which pushes each to become more than they ever dreamed possible. The arc of the story continues through three more surprise-filled books. Impressively, Feist continues to spin out new tales exploring every corner of Midkemia, but it all starts with Pug. Midkemia is my favorite fantasy world.


Who am I?

As a child, my parents and teachers struggled to turn me into a reader. Summer reading assignments only compounded the problem. That changed when I discovered classic fantasy stories built around worlds filled with questing heroes, sorcerous villains, and dragons. The combination of fantastic worlds and wonderful characters creates a magical experience enjoyable for readers of any age. My nine published books follow this recipe—characters readers care about in worlds they want to live in. My recommended books engage readers of any age without resorting to foul language, overt sex, or graphic violence.


I wrote...

The Poisoned Princess: Warders Book 1

By Armen Pogharian,

Book cover of The Poisoned Princess: Warders Book 1

What is my book about?

Falsely convicted and exiled for attacking his friend, half-elven half-barbarian Toran flees to neighboring Eridan. Following his uncle’s advice, he finds work in the seedy Knife & Cat tavern. During the princess’s welcoming parade, Toran uses elven skills and barbarian battle rage to thwart her assassination. His actions earn him an invitation to join the secret protectors of Eridan, the Warders.

A second attempt succeeds in poisoning the princess but fails to kill her. Toran, a veteran dwarf agent, and the princess's lady in waiting embark on a mission to retrieve the antidote's key ingredient. Other Warder agents work with the thieves' guild to protect the comatose princess from the assassin, the sorceress Skade, and an unknown traitor within the royal household.

The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss,

Book cover of The Name of the Wind

This is an epic adventure with great world building. While it is fantasy, there is definitely a spiritual realm that is incorporated into the story which adds a layer of mystery. While it is not necessarily of a biblical paradigm, it does point to the notion that there is more to life than just what we can see with our eyes. 


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by science fiction and by Biblical Scripture. That may seem dichotomous to some, but not to me. I have a passion for science and for Scripture because both bring understanding about our world from the microcosm to the macrocosm. My writings are a mixture of science and mystery with a science fiction feel and a Christian perspective. I like stories that show how truth arises even from the dark, confusing, and ambiguity of life to help one discover something about God they may not have considered before, and at the same time enjoy a fun, fast-paced, and exciting journey as they read.


I wrote...

Rebellion in the Stones of Fire

By Randy C. Dockens,

Book cover of Rebellion in the Stones of Fire

What is my book about?

Come read how who we call the Adversary, or Lucifer, or Satan, or the devil falls from the highest of places to where he is today. Understand the conflict that starts in Heaven and how it extends to Earth. See everything through the eyes of Mikael, the Captain of the Lord’s Hosts: from the beginning of the universe, the initial rebellion, creation of time, the Garden of Eden, and up through the time of Noah, the Nephilim, and the Flood. Get a different perspective on these events that will help you rediscover the awe of age-old Bible stories and give you a new perspective for you to ponder. 

The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern,

Book cover of The Night Circus

If you need a palette cleanser, Erin Morgenstern’s beautiful word pictures make you feel like you’re in a trippy animated film. The premise is that two promising young magicians have been pitted against each other in a duel to the death. Well, it’s more like a seasonal playoff to the death, because they sure take their sweet time about it. 

And it is sweet. The magicians outdo each other in beauty and whimsy until they end up falling in love. 

The venue for these spells is a mysterious circus with the theme of “black and white.” Black and white cats perform tricks. Black and white costumed acrobats leap through the air. One tent has an ice menagerie. Another tent is full of clouds. The lush descriptions were just so beautiful. I felt like I could taste the chocolate mice and smell the roasting peanuts.


Who am I?

I started writing urban fantasy because that’s what I wanted to read more of, and at the time there wasn’t much on offer. I started the Kit Melbourne series with the aim of creating a world in which magic was real, but most people don’t believe in it. I aim for believable, realistic characters with plausible relationships. I’m not a fan of prophets, noble bloodlines, or destiny; magic in my worlds are much more egalitarian. Vampires are not sexy superheroes. Faeries are more like aliens than pinup girls. My inspirations are mystery, true crime, anthropology, psychology, history, natural sciences, ecology, and neo-Paganism—and books like those on this list!


I wrote...

Mulberry Wands

By Kater Cheek,

Book cover of Mulberry Wands

What is my book about?

Don’t get me wrong, I love vampires and shapeshifters, but I wanted a break from that when I started the Alternate Susan books. Mulberry Wands is the second book in the series, but in some ways I think it’s the most creative thing I’ve ever done. I have an exotic culture of tiny desert-dwelling people, entrepreneurs selling magic, shapeshifting owl-women, a time-traveler love interest, cash-strapped young roomates, and a murder trial where a human is taking a fall for a cat. It’s about friendship and loyalty and ecological conflict in a version of Arizona where animals have magic too.

Libriomancer

By Jim C. Hines,

Book cover of Libriomancer

Libriomancer is a very meta urban fantasy where the power of fiction is real and accessible. It delves deeply into the powers of other fictional worlds within the framework of the one created for this story. With more than a little humor and a lot of fun, the literary fantasy and science fiction pop culture becomes active tools rather than cute easter eggs. I felt heart-warmed by the inventive and interesting use of combining old books I love to help form a new book I love. 


Who am I?

I’m an autistic unapologetic writing nerd who has spent most of their life using fiction and pop culture to connect better with the world. It has always been the tool, escape, and comfort for me when I feel overwhelmed. As I bite my tongue to keep from monologuing, I always strive to share, introduce, or connect with my passions. Now I use that and my degree in psychology to try to craft worlds that people can feel emotional about in my writing and poetry.


I wrote...

The Crafting of Chess

By Kit Falbo,

Book cover of The Crafting of Chess

What is my book about?

Nate, a teenage chess hustler with a dream, takes a chance in a new fantasy video game. As he was taught that reward doesn’t come without a little risk and a lot of hard work. Crafting, artificial intelligence, pop culture, and a fantasy world mix to brew this story. 

Deep Secret

By Diana Wynne Jones,

Book cover of Deep Secret

Deep Secret is one of my all-time favourite books; one I reread often. There are no spaceships here, (though there is a Land Rover that isn’t!) but much of the action takes place on distant worlds; chiefly Thule and the Koryfonic Empire. Rupert Venables, the youngest Magid, faces not only the fall of the Koryfonic Empire and his task of finding the hidden heir, but also the need to choose a successor for his dead mentor, Stan. There’s so much to love about this chaotic, tangled, wonderful book; not least the combative but ultimately loving relationship between Rupert and Maree, the least likely of the candidates on Rupert’s list.


Who am I?

I’m Tasmanian. I’ve loved books set in other worlds since I encountered Robert Heinlein’s juveniles in my teens. I often find books set in the mundane world of here-and-now implausible or dull, because the adventures seem contrived or else result from characters doing something stupid or bad. If characters venture to other worlds, or other planets though—that’s a different ballgame! I read a great deal of fantasy and sci-fi, and when I was fourteen, I started writing my own. I enjoy a wide variety of genres, but my favourite stories are those where I can follow relatable characters through wild adventures and believe every line.  


I wrote...

Elysian Dawn

By Sally Odgers,

Book cover of Elysian Dawn

What is my book about?

Marianne Arcadia expected to marry Jeremiah and raise a family. Edsen Balm had no more hope than to stay close to Marianne. Jameel Singh intended to travel home to Terra to meet his fiancée’s parents. Hanaka Moon was meant to oversee the next generation of ship-born and pass the mantle of healer to her daughters. Meera Singh wanted to prove herself as the brightest new diamond in Mother Shiva’s crown. Cornelia Conti hoped to get her embroidery done and to find a shampoo that didn’t contain Stay-colour. All their plans crash-landed with the starship Elysian Dawn but that, as they say, was just the beginning.

Air Awakens

By Elise Kova,

Book cover of Air Awakens

I always wanted to be the superhero with the elemental or weather powers. Thunderstorm brewing? I’m a happy girl. Favorite X-(wo)man? Definitely Storm. And the protagonist of Air Awakens falls right into that category of powerful women with elemental magic in their veins. This whole series was a great read, perfect for curling up when those storm clouds roll in.


Who am I?

I have loved all things magical my entire life. I grew up leaving out food for the fairies and searching for gnomes in the woods, so it only follows that when I learned to read, I gravitated toward stories of fantasy and myth. I often felt that the worlds I read about matched my personality more accurately than the real world, and I longed to be one of the magically gifted heroines I encountered. I’m excited to share some of my very favorites with you, and hope they bring you as much joy as they did me!


I wrote...

Keeper of Scales

By Anne Mollova,

Book cover of Keeper of Scales

What is my book about?

A princess with a secret. An ancient evil rising. A kingdom caught in the balance.

Alyen, crown princess of Dúramair, has trained her whole life to be queen. She’s kept her Sight a secret, trusting that the Keeper of Scales will find an apprentice soon—for surely one other candidate can be found. But when news comes from the north of dark magic returning to Dúramair, Alyen is forced to make the hardest decision of her life. A decision that could determine the fate of her kingdom.

Carter Beats the Devil

By Glen Gold,

Book cover of Carter Beats the Devil

Carter Beats the Devil is a historical mystery thriller based on a real character, a magician named Carter who is under suspicion of killing the president of the United States. There are plenty of powerful figures after him, and yet, he must dig deep into his own bag of tricks to outwit and escape them. Carter is a supremely enjoyable character who also happens to have a really cool job! I have always been fascinated by magic and this book takes you behind the curtain to see all that goes into the stagecraft.


Who am I?

I worked in television for 25 years so when I wrote my novel, Death Warrant, about a reality TV show that kills people, I had a wealth of experience to draw from (not the killing part, but the TV part). And one of my experiences in TV was promoting reality TV programs on the stations I worked for. What did I come away with from that? That I really hate reality TV. Why? Because there is virtually nothing real about it. The shows are produced to within an inch of their lives. So, anything I could do that takes a swipe at reality TV, that satirizes it a bit, I was all in.

I wrote...

Death Warrant

By Bryan Johnston,

Book cover of Death Warrant

What is my book about?

Frankie Percival is cashing in her chips. To save her brother from financial ruin, Frankie, a stage performer who never made it big, agrees to be assassinated on the most popular television show on the planet: Death Warrant. But once she signs her life away, her memory is wiped clean of the agreement, leaving her with no idea she will soon be killed in spectacular fashion for global entertainment. After years of working in low-rent theaters, Frankie prepares for the biggest performance of her life that could catapult her to the top, if only she lives that long.

The Paper Magician

By Charlie N. Holmberg,

Book cover of The Paper Magician

It’s in my Rereads Club, what I return to when I need to escape to a fantastical yet familiar world. This is also the driving force behind my love for the genre. 

Set in an alternate-history Edwardian London where magic is something you specialize in like any other skill, Ceony’s arc was the first time I read about what happens after one leaves magic-school. And the directions a post-graduate magician can head in when they’re assigned something that, at first, appears to ruin their dreams, but instead opens up new opportunities and drives home why you should take a chance on the unexpected.


Who am I?

I am Lucy Tempest, an bicultural author that puts my love of history, culture and folklore into creating vivid, expanded adaptations of tales that stood the test of time. I adore stories either set in our own recent past or are similar to them in set-up, finding them full of interesting opportunities, not just in world-building but aesthetics as well, that Medieval-fantasy lacks. Gaslamp fantasy is a Goldilocks setting, detached enough from our modern world, but with enough crucial traits to be familiar. I can read about the magical adventures of pseudo-industrial people without worrying about how they survive without indoor plumbing!


I wrote...

Thief of Cahraman: A Retelling of Aladdin

By Lucy Tempest,

Book cover of Thief of Cahraman: A Retelling of Aladdin

What is my book about?

Thief of Cahraman, first of a trilogy, is an expanded, gender-bent and culturally rich adaptation of Aladdin starring a small-time thief who is plucked from her isolated island to the desert Kingdom of Cahraman and blackmailed into a palace heist to steal a golden lamp. She infiltrates a bridal contest set for the mysterious crown prince, has to go through trials with ever-increasing stakes to buy herself time and finds herself in a comedy-of-errors style romance. As their fates further intertwine, Ada and Cyrus uncover grave secrets about the past along their winding path, exploring and breaking the cycle of dark magic, conflict and politics they were born into.

The Secret Life of Houdini

By William Kalush, Larry Sloman,

Book cover of The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero

My professional background's in magic, so Houdini's an endlessly fascinating character to me—both in his real life and the grand illusion he built of himself as the early 20th century's greatest showman. Erik Weisz was a skilled performer with a passion for physically testing himself. Harry Houdini, by contrast, was a superhuman master mystifier, a tireless crusader against psychic fraudsters—and also, allegedly, a rather successful spy. What emerges in this book is a man at war with his own constructed alter ego. A man who literally escaped his own grave many times before falling victim to the very claims of invincibility that established his legend, and who ultimately died believing himself a fraud. It's an immensely powerful story to me, inspirational and chilling in equal measure. 


Who am I?

Robert-Houdin, Houdini's first and greatest inspiration, famously said that a magician is an actor playing the role of a sorcerer. When I started out writing professionally, I quickly found myself drawn to characters who are at odds with themselves, living in their own shadows. There's a core tension in the stories these people inhabit that, for me, reflects the structure of a magic trick, with its misdirection and layered realities. I always try to incorporate the principles of magic into my writing, and the figurative masks my characters wear to function in worlds that alienate them are a major part of that.


I wrote...

Indifference Engine

By Cy Dethan, Rob Carey (illustrator),

Book cover of Indifference Engine

What is my book about?

Responding to a strangely specific job advertisement, underachieving suburban slacker Alan Blake suddenly finds himself the newest recruit of an interdimensional task force staffed entirely by superhuman alternate-reality versions of himself. Blackmailed by an insane supercomputer, Alan is forced to kill in order to live. With every murder he commits, another world ends—but, inevitably, the only person he ever hurts is himself.

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