On Magic Systems (in Books)

I’m thinking a lot about magic systems in the last few days. I also realized that I like books with magic in general, but I like it way more when the author spends some time finding a unique, not run of the mill magic system for his world.

The most important question to any magic system is how it is limited because a world where there is limitless power does not make for an exciting story. The simplest way is that crafting magic takes energy from your body, which implies that you can train your “magic-muscle” to yield more magic. On the other side, you have just an upper limit depending on your birth, and it is just luck how strong you are. An exciting plot here would be to research if you could increase this by changing your body ;-)

What happens if you spend too much energy? Do you lose the ability and burn out, or can you die from it?

Are the people in the world actively researching magic? Or is it just a plot device? The more books I read, the more it bothers me when the inhabitants do not study their magic. It is just not realistic that no human would want to know what more you could do with it! I understand that it sometimes is not relevant to the story told in the book, but in such cases, it leaves a stagnant feeling in me like the world is not entirely real.

The next point is how you learn magic. Does a school exist for it. Or is everybody on his own? But then again, having a school for magic and not study it at the same time would be strange.

What are the differences in wielding magic between the sexes? Is there a power difference, and why? Are women prevented from magic while pregnant? Is this an inherent property of the system or just because you need to be careful with extortion. Having no magic while pregnant is such a silly thing; I understand it when the reason is the extortion angle. But in most books, it is technically impossible, and for me, this does not work.


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